Who should get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine?

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James D. Cherry, MD
Pediatrics
The pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine should be given to all children and pregnant women. Today, kids receive a series of the pertussis-containing vaccine called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), which is given in five doses (at 6 to 8 weeks, 4 months, 6 months and 12 to 15 months, and between 4 and 6 years of age). This is followed by the Tdap vaccine between 10 and 12 years of age. All pregnant women should receive Tdap between 27 and 36 weeks gestation to protect their baby for the first 2 months of life.
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines are recommended for children, adolescents, and adults, including pregnant women.

The whooping cough vaccine for children is called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis). For best protection against whooping cough, children need five doses of DTaP. The first dose is recommended at 2 months old. Two more doses are needed after that, given at 4 months and 6 months, to build up high levels of protection. Vaccine protection for whooping cough decreases over time, so booster shots are recommended at 15 through 18 months and at 4 through 6 years to maintain that protection.

The whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap, and is recommended for everyone 11 years and older, including pregnant women and adults 65 and older. The preferred time to get Tdap is at 11 or 12 years of age. Teens who didn't get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose the next time they visit their doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults 19 years of age and older who didn't get Tdap as a preteen or teen should also get one dose of Tdap. If you aren’t up-to-date with Tdap, getting vaccinated at least two weeks before coming into close contact with a baby is especially important. These two weeks give your body enough time to build up protection against whooping cough.

Tdap is recommended for pregnant women during each pregnancy, no matter when you got your last Tdap. The vaccine is preferred at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.

You can get Tdap no matter when you got your last tetanus shot.

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Your child should get the pertussis vaccine if he/she is under seven years old. Even if your child has a mild cold, he/she should get the pertussis vaccine. Your doctor may decide if you or your adult child should get a booster shot for the pertussis vaccine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.