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Protect Infants from Whooping Cough by Vaccinating Older Kids

Increasing the numbers of adolescents who got the pertussis vaccine reduced the number of babies who were hospitalized with the disease. Sophie Bushwick reports

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, can cause fatal respiratory failure in infants. Now a study finds that one way to help protect the very young from this disease is vaccination—of kids a few years older than the babies.  

The recent resurgence of pertussis led to a 2006 recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that adolescents be vaccinated. The current study used pre-2006 data to estimate the number of babies who would have been hospitalized for pertussis had the vaccination effort not occurred.

Researchers found that the actual number of infants hospitalized in the years since the adolescent immunization program started was far lower than what would have been forecast.

For example, in 2011 adolescent vaccination led to a greater than 70 percent reduction in infant hospital cases. Credit goes to so-called herd immunity: protected people means more dead ends for an infection trying to spread. The work is in the journal Pediatrics. [Katherine A. Auger, Stephen W. Patrick and Matthew M. Davis, Infant Hospitalizations for Pertussis Before and After Tdap Recommendations for Adolescents]

Sadly, a thousand babies still got sick. Vaccinations for people of all ages will help smother pertussis in the crib.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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