ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A local pediatrician says he's not surprised by a new study that finds the whooping cough vaccine becomes less effective over time. This new study published in the journal Pediatrics found the risk of contracting whooping cough -- or pertussis -- increased as children were further away from their last dose of the vaccine.
"It turns out the pertussis vaccine does give a pretty robust immune response fairly soon after getting the vaccine," said SLU Care pediatrician Dr. Ken Haller at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. "But over time, it does tend to fade. A few years ago, pertussis was added to the tetanus booster that adults get because there was an appreciation that adults still could get pertussis as they got older. "
"This really doesn't come as a surprise," Dr. Haller told KMOX. "This is something that we've really known for a long time. What this does is it just backs up what we've known and highlights the importance of getting those vaccines on schedule. I wouldn't be surprised if what comes out of this is a recommendation for more boosters at various points."
The current vaccine schedule has infants getting the shot at two months, four months and six months of age. "We do give the vaccine again at about 12 to 18 months and then at 4 years of age," said Dr. Haller. A similar booster is given when a child is 11 or 12 years old. "As long as every group gets their vaccine at the time they're supposed to get it, they're helping to protect other kids who might have gotten the vaccine when the protection is starting to wane over time because that's just what this vaccine does."
The bottom line according to Dr. Haller?
"It is really important that everyone get their pertussis vaccines," said Dr. Haller. "This is one of those things where herd immunity is really important. So if you have a cohort of kids, young babies who are getting their pertussis vaccines, they are reducing the spread of whooping cough among that population as well as reducing the spread to their older siblings who might be at home."