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How effective are pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines?

The pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine is very effective, but immunity may wane over time for some, so it's important to get immunized as an adult. Watch pediatrician Lisa Thornton, MD, explain what you should know about vaccinations for pertussis.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States.

There is high pertussis vaccine coverage for children nationwide. However, protection from the childhood vaccine decreases over time. Preteens, teens and adults need an additional dose of pertussis vaccine, even if they were completely vaccinated as children.

Also, pertussis vaccines are very effective but not 100 percent effective. Getting a pertussis vaccine (as a child or an adult) does not provide lifetime protection (neither does getting the infection). In general, DTaP vaccination is effective for 89 out of 100 children who receive it, and Tdap vaccination protects 65 out of 100 adolescents who receive it. Protection from both pertussis vaccines fades over time, but people who are vaccinated and get pertussis later are typically protected against severe illness.

If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease. When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.

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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.