Cincinnati Children's Blog

Newer Whooping Cough Vaccines Fall Flat

Youngsters who received older whole-cell whooping cough vaccines had greater protection during a recent outbreak than those who got newer acellular medications, according to a new study.

During a 2010-2011 outbreak in California, 10- through 17-year-olds whose first four diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis shots included acellular whooping cough vaccine were nearly six times as likely to get the disease as those who had four whole-cell vaccinations, according to researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.

The findings add to the growing evidence of shortcomings of the newer acellular vaccines.

The most recent findings raise the question of trade-offs in vaccines, commented Dr. Robert Frenck, Director of Clinical Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s, who was not involved in the study.

The acellular version has fewer side effects, such as fever, but the trade-off may be immunity that is more short-lived, according to Dr. Frenck.

The original studies that led to licensing of the acellular vaccine, he said, suggested it was efficacious for as long as the whole-cell version. “Subsequent studies are showing that may not be true,” he said.

Whether the public would want to return to the whole-cell vaccine is an open question, he added, but the findings raise the question of whether it might be worthwhile to try to “tweak” the acellular medication to improve its longevity.

Read more about the study from MedPage Today.

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