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Whooping Cough Vaccine Protection Fades Over Time: Study
Date:9/13/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- While the whooping cough vaccine offers the best chance of protection against this potentially deadly disease, immunity provided by the vaccine appears to wane significantly every year after vaccination.

A new study found that protection against whooping cough (also known as pertussis) dropped by 40 percent a year after the fifth and final dose of vaccine.

"During the five years after the last dose of vaccine, protection from the disease wanes substantially each year," explained study author Dr. Nicola Klein, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif. "If we estimate that after the fifth dose of vaccine, protection is at 95 percent, protection would decrease to 71 percent after five years."

But, both Klein and Tom Clark, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, pointed out that parents should still get their children vaccinated against pertussis.

"We want to make sure parents understand that even though the protection wears off more quickly, the vaccine shouldn't be misconstrued as not being protective," Clark explained. "Pertussis never went away, and it's back now with a vengeance. And, this vaccine protects against severe disease and its complications."

Results of the study are published in the Sept. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2010, almost 28,000 Americans had pertussis, according to the CDC. And, Clark says that number is likely an underestimation of the actual number of cases, because people with less serious cases don't report them. Whooping cough is highly contagious, and is spread by coughing or sneezing. Babies are the ones hardest hit by this disease, and more than half of infected infants need to be hospitalized. Complications for infants may include pneumonia, seizures and even death, according to the
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