Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine: DTaP and Tdap


Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough caused by a type of bacteria. It is contagious and can spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

December 12, 2017

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough caused by a type of bacteria. It is contagious and can spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.
Pertussis can cause severe coughing spells, vomiting, and disturbed sleep. It can lead to weight loss, incontinence, rib fractures, and passing out from violent coughing. These symptoms usually develop within seven to ten days after getting infected, but sometimes not for as long as six weeks. As the illness continues coughing fits generally become more common and severe and can occur more often at night. Since symptoms can vary and may look much like the common cold during the early stages of disease, children and adults may not be aware of having whooping cough and can spread it to infants they are in close contact with. The illness can be less severe in children, teens, and adults who have been vaccinated.

Risk of Pertussis or Whooping Cough:

Almost everyone is at risk for pertussis, but it is most severe for babies, especially in the first months of life before pertussis immunizations begin. Pertussis can lead to pneumonia or lung infection, convulsions and even death. The most common complications in adults with pertussis are:
  •     Weight loss
  •     Loss of bladder control
  •     Passing out
  •     Rib fractures from severe coughing
It is especially important for women to get Tdap in the third trimester of every pregnancy so that they can create antibodies and pass this protection to their babies before birth. These antibodies help protect newborns right after birth and until babies are old enough to get their own DTaP vaccine at two months of age.
The best way to prevent pertussis or whooping cough among infants, children, teens and adults is to get vaccinated. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP and the pertussis booster vaccine for teens and adults is called Tdap. These are combination vaccines that protect against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
Even fully-vaccinated children and adults can get pertussis. Early symptoms can last for one to two weeks and usually include:
  •     Runny nose
  •     Low-grade fever
  •     Mild, occasional cough
  •     Apnea which is a pause in breathing in infants
As the disease progresses, the symptoms of pertussis may be severe which include:
  • Fits called paroxysms in which rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched whoop occur
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion after coughing fits
The coughing fits can go on for up to ten weeks or more.

DTaP Vaccine:

This vaccine is licensed for only Infants and Children. Children should get five doses of DTaP vaccine. The doses should be given at the age of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months and 4 through 6 years respectively.
DTaP vaccine may be given at the same visit as other vaccines. DTaP is not licensed for anyone over the age of six. Children older than six, teens and adults may get a similar vaccine known as Tdap.

Tdap Vaccine:

Tdap is a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine given to teens and adults. It can be given after exposure to tetanus under some circumstances in place of one of the Td (tetanus and diphtheria vaccine) shots. Tdap is especially important for pregnant women. Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy. The shot is recommended during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This helps to maximize the amount of protective antibodies passed to the baby. These antibodies help protect newborns right after birth and until babies are old enough to get their own DTaP vaccine at two months of age. However, the vaccine can be safely given at any time during pregnancy if required. New mothers who have never gotten Tdap should get a dose as soon as possible after delivery.
Teens 11 through 18 years old should receive a single dose of Tdap. Adults 19 years or older who did not receive Tdap as a teen should also receive a single dose of Tdap.
Tdap should also be given to kids 7 through 10 years old who are not fully immunized against pertussis.

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Sometimes people faint after vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting. If you feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in the ears, speak to your doctor.
  • In some cases severe pain in the shoulder and difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given could happen.
  • A severe allergic reaction would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. You can get all the information from Vaccine Safety site.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.

Learn more about Vaccine:

Your doctor can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can call your local or state health department or can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by:
        Calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
        Visiting  CDC vaccines website