With the whooping cough outbreak in the US showing few signs of abating, a recent study suggesting that the Tdap vaccine is safe for older adults provides some welcome relief.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a serious disease that can cause death, particularly among infants younger than 3 months of age. As a result, it is very important that those who have close contact with infants receive an appropriate pertussis vaccine. 2012 has seen increased rates of the disease in 49 states and Washington, D.C., making it even more crucial to protect the very young, who are often exposed to whooping cough via contact with un-vaccinated grandparents.
Study of over 119,000 adults ages 65 and over
A recent study, headed by Hung Fe Tseng and his colleagues from Kaiser Permanente Southern California, analyzed information from 119,573 adults aged 65 and over who had received the Tdap vaccine (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) between 2006 and 2010. As a point of comparison, the study also looked at a similar number of senior adults who had received the Td vaccine (tetanus-diphtheria) during that same period.
In the past, there was not sufficient information to document the effects the vaccine has on older adults, leading to concerns that a number of health issues and allergic reactions could arise.
No increased signs of risk seen
The new study found, however, that the group that received the Tdap vaccine had no increased risks of suffering these adverse effects compared to those who had received the Td vaccine, leading the study authors to conclude that no one vaccine was safer than the other.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults under age 65, subject to individual medical considerations, receive the pertussis vaccine in order to protect themselves and especially their young family members. So far there have been 16 pertussis-related deaths in 2012, the majority of which were in infants under 3 months. As more studies are conducted on the safety and efficacy of the pertussis vaccine for older adults, hopefully vaccination levels across all age groups will rise, and mortality rates will fall.