Home > Preventable Diseases, Vaccine Myths > Three Times is a Charm Against Whooping Cough.

Three Times is a Charm Against Whooping Cough.

By Christine Vara

In light of the recent rise in pertussis in several states, it’s important that parents understand one basic fact about vaccines.  In a recent article in the Contra Costa Times, part of the CA Bay Area newsgroup, a mother questions why her 3 month old daughter had been diagnosed with pertussis, after she had received the pertussis vaccine just a month prior.

While this seems like a reasonable question, there is a reasonable answer.  It takes three!

As Dr. David Pepper states in his article, Healthy Outlook:  When a vaccine may be ineffective, “The reason this infant became ill, despite having been vaccinated, is that a first dose is just the start of becoming immune.  Usually all three shots in the series are needed for the best immunity and to prevent infection.  Immunity often requires a series of shots, such as in the DTaP vaccines, and the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given in three shots over six months.”

This is just another reason why it is important for children to stay up to date with their vaccinations.  A child’s immune response is one of many considerations when the recommended vaccination schedule is developed.  But to space out the vaccines even further simply delays the time in which the child will be better protected, which in turn increases the risk of disease. 

Adults are encouraged to consider Tdap booster shots as well, since immunity can decrease over time.  The concept of “cocooning” infants, by ensuring that the adults in their lives are immunized, can greatly reduce the risk of the children contracting disease during the time in which they are not completely immunized.

  1. amy pisani - every child by two
    July 16, 2010 at 10:34 am

    well put. It is a complicated concept to get across and can so easily be interpreted as a vaccine not being 100% effective. Of course they are not 100% effective, but that is why we need to have herd immunity so that our odds of infecting one another are drastically reduced if in fact we are within that percentage range.


  2. July 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Until three doses of pertussis pertussis at age 6 months, a baby is not protected from whooping cough. That is why it has been recommended since 2008 that everyone who will have contact with an infant less than 6 months of age (parents, grandparents, baby sitters, etc.) received the adolescent/adult booster vaccine, Tdap. Every parent needs to know this, but little information has been disseminated to date.


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