New AAP Pertusis Recommendation

Boston.com/health 09/26/2011

New Grandparents Need Whooping Cough Vaccine, AAP says

By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff

Grandparents spending time with infants need to get vaccinated against pertussis or whooping cough to protect babies under six months who are too young to receive the vaccine. That’s a new recommendation announced today by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The policy statement issued by the Academy recommends that anyone over age 65 who is caring for a baby receive the tetanus-diptheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. They already had the recommendation in place for parents of babies who hadn’t yet received Tdap, which was approved for use in 2005.

In fact, some hospitals in the local area offer the immunization to new parents before they head home with their newborn. Babies don’t receive their first diptheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) vaccine until two months of age and aren’t fully immunized until six months.

Pertussis has been a growing problem in the U.S. with 27,550 cases reported last year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California had the worst outbreak since 1947 with 9,143 cases and 10 infant deaths. (Mass. had fewer than 500 cases last year.)

“Outbreaks at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades,” said the CDC on its website. A study last week found that protection from whooping cough fades after three years in young children who were immunized.

For this reason, the AAP urged parents today to get their children the Tdap booster between ages 7 and 10 if they’re behind on their DPT immunizations. And the policy statement also noted that kids who had just the DT shot can still get Tdap shortly after since studies haven’t found evidence of any harmful effects from getting the two immunizatons close together.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.

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