Posts Tagged ‘adult Tdap booster’

How My Sister Helped Save My Daughter From Whooping Cough 

June 19, 2017 21 comments

TamaraSheffieldHeadShotBy Tamara Sheffield, MD, MPA, MPH, Medical Director, Community Health and Prevention, Intermountain Healthcare

In my role as a medical director at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, I am responsible for Community Health and Prevention.  You could say that I’m a professional advocate for immunizations, since they prevent many illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths.  In fact, maternal immunizations are one of today’s most promising new preventive health strategies.

By vaccinating pregnant women against certain diseases – like whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza – we are reducing the amount of illness, hospitalization, miscarriage and pre-term labor these women experience as a result of these diseases.

Additionally, maternal vaccines enable pregnant women to pass on protective antibodies to their unborn babies.  These antibodies provide newborns with early, short-term protection against pertussis or flu, during the time when they are too young to receive their own vaccines to prevent these diseases.

For instance, children must be six months of age before they can receive their first flu vaccination, and the DTaP vaccine, which helps prevent whooping cough in children, is administered as a series of five shots (with doses at 2, 4, 6, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years of age). Sadly, there are about 100 pediatric deaths due to influenza each year, and 90% of all deaths associated with whooping cough are among infants, mostly because the thick mucus that accompanies the infection has a severe impact on a baby’s ability to breath.

For an expectant woman, changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more prone to illness.  When a pregnant women gets ill, it raises her risk of complications, such as premature labor and delivery.  But research shows that mothers can help protect themselves and their babies by getting vaccinated during pregnancy.

The flu vaccine is recommended at any trimester of each pregnancy. An adult Tdap booster vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy as well – and studies show that the best time for optimal transfer of protective antibodies is at 27-to-36 weeks gestation. The ongoing research continues to indicate that these maternal immunizations are effective at reducing the number of flu and whooping cough-related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths among infants.

The abundance of scientific evidence on this matter is one reason I am a strong advocate for maternal vaccinations.  However, I have a very personal reason to advocate for maternal vaccinations as well.

You see, I know an amazing 25-year-old young woman who nearly died from whooping cough when she was just three weeks old. 

Alicia Outside ICU at Phoenix Childrens' Hospital

Like many infants who suffer with whooping cough, this beautiful baby girl contracted it from a family member.  During the weeks before delivery, her mother developed a persistent cough that went undiagnosed, and she unknowingly passed whooping cough on to her baby.  Three weeks later, after a couple of incidents where the baby stopped breathing and turned blue, her parents rushed her to the hospital. Read more…

Barbara Loe Fisher is Right. She’s Also To Blame.

March 3, 2016 19 comments

Barbara Loe Fisher may be right about one thing.

We need a better Tdap vaccine to prevent pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

However, her opposition to legislation in Indiana that would require hospital employees be up-to-date on Tdap, flu and MMR vaccines is unsupported.  Fisher has publicly defended her position in a FOX28 news clip when she states that Tdap vaccines should not be mandated because they don’t work. However, this is an example of what’s known as a nirvana fallacy.

VYF_FB01Tdap vaccines do work. Maybe not 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. 

In fact, data shows that pertussis vaccines protect about 7 out of 10 people who receive them.  That’s enough for the World Health Organization to justify using it across the globe to help prevent pertussis, as well as diphtheria and tetanus. Sorry Barb, but in lieu of a better option to prevent a highly infectious and sometimes deadly  disease such as pertussis, the Tdap vaccine is the best defense we have.  It’s certainly better than the 0 out of 10 people who are protected by avoiding vaccination all together.

Interestingly enough, what Fisher avoids admitting is that her opposition to the whole cell pertussis vaccination (DTP) is why we are in the situation we are in today.  Back in the 80’s, Fisher led the charge against the whole cell pertussis vaccine, claiming it had too many adverse events. This prompted the development of a more purified (acellular) pertussis vaccine (DTaP).  By 1997, a newly licensed DTaP vaccine was being recommended by the ACIP in place of the DTP vaccine for the full 5-dose pediatric schedule.  While the new vaccine appeared less likely to provoke adverse events, studies have since shown that it has not been as effective in providing lasting immunity.

The truth is, Fisher has never really been interested in making vaccines safer.  She co-founded the National Vaccine Information Center in 1982 to help organize a movement of vaccine refusal and oppose any public policy that endorses the use of vaccines.

Unfortunately, while we are stuck with a less than ideal vaccine, children like Callie Van Tornhout are dying from pertussis infection.

People of all ages can be affected by pertussis. However, it is most dangerous for babies, as they are at particularly high risk of severe complications, hospitalization and death.  About half of babies younger than one year who get the disease need care in the hospital, and 1 out of 100 babies who get treatment in the hospital die.  Most unvaccinated children who are living with an infected family member will contract pertussis themselves.  There is no real cure for pertussis, only treatments that help address the symptoms.

Families_callie_van_tornhoutIn the case of Callie Van Tornhout, detailed in the FOX28 news clip out of Indiana, transmission of pertussis from a hospital employee to a vulnerable newborn too young for vaccination proved to be deadly.  Callie was only 38 days old and had never been anywhere besides her family home and the hospital. This is why Callie’s mom Katie Van Tornhout is speaking out in support of the proposed Indiana bill (SB 162).

Katie, like the many others who support this bill, believes that hospital employees who have direct contact with patients should take reasonable precautions in order to protect themselves and their patients from preventable diseases like pertussis.  That means they should be up-to-date on ACIP recommended vaccines such as Tdap, flu and MMR, that are proven to be safe and effective.

Katie explains, ”If you’re taking care of my child in the hospital and you’re not vaccinated, then what good is that? You’re putting that baby in danger.  You’re putting everyone in danger.”

Read more…

Pertussis Vaccine: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

February 11, 2016 46 comments

iStock_000043678332_XXXLarge.jpgLast week, a new study published in Pediatrics suggested that the pertussis immunity from the recommended adolescent Tdap booster was quick to wane.  While this is being reported by many as “news”, public health experts, immunologists and epidemiologists have long been familiar with the torrid history of pertussis vaccines and the unfortunate reality that the current pertussis vaccine does not provide long term protection.

Ever since the acellular pertussis vaccine was introduced in the late 90’s (DTaP), several studies have suggested that the pertussis immunity didn’t last as long as the previous whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) that first became routinely recommended for children back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In fact, waning immunity among the adolescent population is precisely what prompted the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to recommend an adolescent Tdap booster at ages 11-12 back in 2006.  At the time, the immunity received from recommended series of DTaP shots administered at ages 2, 4, and 6 months, with boosters administered at ages 15-18 months and again at 4-6 years of age, was determined to be waning in teens, so an adolescent booster was added to the recommended schedule as well as a recommendation for adults to receive one Tdap booster as well.

So why is last week’s study creating such a fuss when the data is not much different than what has been seen in previous studies?  

Last week’s study determined that effectiveness during the first year after adolescent Tdap vaccination was 69% but then decreased to 9% by four or more years after vaccination.  The study concluded that Tdap vaccine provided moderate protection against pertussis during the first year and then waned rapidly so that little protection remained 2-3 years after vaccination. It also concluded, like many studies before, that adolescents who were more remote from Tdap were significantly more likely to test positive for pertussis than were those vaccinated more recently.

But even as far as 2005, we see similar trends in the published data.  One such review on duration of immunity revealed that infection-acquired immunity against pertussis disease wanes after 4-20 years and protective immunity after vaccination wanes after 4-12 years. In 2014, another study looked into the evidence of rapidly waning immunity and the difference in effectiveness by Tdap brand. The results showed that immunity waned to 75% after one year, 68% after two years, 35% after three years and 12% after the fourth year with a slightly higher estimate among one brand than the other.  Then in 2015, another study investigated Tdap effectiveness among adolescents who received only acellular pertussis vaccines and found 73% effectiveness one year after vaccination, 55% effectiveness one to two years after vaccination, and 34% two to four years after vaccination.

The latest data really doesn’t offer a lot of new information, except that the numbers are slightly worse than we’ve seen in the past.

In response to these repeated findings,  many are questioning whether the ACIP will  consider changes to the adolescent and adult Tdap booster recommendations? 

The short answer is probably not.  But to understand why, we must look at how we’ve come to be where we are today.

Pertussis vaccines first became available back in the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until the 1940’s and 1950’s that a pediatric whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) became routinely recommended for children.  It was considered a good thing at the time because in the mid-1930’s to 40’s, the United States was suffering with more than 200,000 pertussis cases and over 4,000 pertussis-related deaths each year. Fortunately, after the routine use of childhood whole cell pertussis vaccine, the number of reported pertussis cases declined dramatically. By 1970, the reported incidence had declined greater than 99% and we hit a historic low of just 1,010 cases in 1976.

But before long, the pertussis predicament got ugly again.

Deadly-Choices-JacketAs Dr. Paul Offit elaborates in his book Deadly Choices, and Seth Mnookin covers in detail in his book The Panic Virus, everything changed in the spring of 1982, when the local NBC affiliate in Washington, DC, aired a program entitled “Vaccine Roulette”.  It was then that reporter Lea Thompson kicked off a campaign of fear in her hour-long special. Pertussis cases were low at the time, and people no longer feared infection from a bacteria that made it near impossible to breath.  Instead, Thompson introduced new fears by featuring the personal narratives of parents who alleged that their children had suffered permanent injury as a result of the pertussis vaccine.  Thompson’s reporting not only struck to the core of a parent’s overwhelming instinct to protect their children, but it aggressively attacked the “medical establishment” for mandating the vaccine for public school children and willfully ignoring the horrible consequences of injury.

In the days after the special aired, one viewer, Barbara Loe Fisher, was so captivated by the concerns Thompson raised about the pertussis vaccine, that she was moved to take action. Two years prior, Fisher’s son had received his fourth DPT shot.  Fisher alleged that within hours of vaccination he suffered a convulsion to which she attributed brain inflammation that left her son suffering with multiple learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.   Thompson’s “Vaccine Roulette” inspired Fisher to seek out other parents who suspected vaccine injury.  She subsequently co-founded the National Vaccine Information Center, and just like that the modern day “anti-vaccine” movement was born.

From there a whole lot of bad has happened, mixed in with some good.

While Fisher was poised to distinguish herself as a consumer advocate, who could have helped to institute vaccine safety reforms at a time when the public health system was evolving, she has since become a harsh critic of vaccines, advocating for alternative medicines over vaccines and promoting her belief that all vaccines are dangerous and ineffective.

Raising concerns about the safety of whole-cell pertussis vaccines prompted the development of a more purified (acellular) pertussis vaccine (DTaP) that was first licensed in the early 90’s.  By the year 1997, the ACIP recommended DTaP be used routinely in place of DTP for the full 5-dose pediatric schedule.  The good news was that it appeared less likely to provoke adverse events because these newer vaccines contain purified antigenic components of Bordetella pertussis.  The bad news is that the newer acellular pertussis vaccine is just not as effective in providing lasting immunity as the whole cell version.  This is exactly what we have been reminded of with last week’s study.

There is no doubt that we will continue to see cyclical peaks in pertussis, and it’s believed that these are not solely due to increased numbers of families exempting their children from vaccines.  The increase in pertussis can also be attributed to several other things such as decreased vaccine efficacy, waning immunity among adolescents and adults vaccinated during childhood, increased diagnosis and reporting of pertussis because of greater awareness among physicians about the disease, and enhanced surveillance and more complete reporting of the disease.

In an attempt to compensate for the vaccine’s waning immunity, the ACIP continues to assess the current data and alter recommendations as needed.

Even though there are several recommendations pertaining to pertussis vaccine, Every Child By Two (ECBT) continues to field questions from parents asking why the ACIP doesn’t simply recommend more frequent Tdap boosters.  Couldn’t we prevent more pertussis cases if everyone was recommended a booster once every 4-5 years?

Certainly that solution sounds logical.  However, ACIP recommendations come at a cost.  Based on the evidence of limited immunity offered from the vaccine, it appears that it is unlikely that the ACIP will recommend more frequent boosters.

In fact, in 2013 a special working group for the ACIP analyzed information to determine if it would be beneficial to add an extra dose of whooping cough vaccine to be admin
istered at either age 16 or 21. They concluded that an extra dose would only slightly reduce the number of whooping cough cases, but would come at a high cost. They estimated that adding a dose at age 16 would cost the U.S. $77 million more than the current vaccination program, or about $270,000 for each case of whooping cough that was prevented.  Whereas, an extra dose at age 21 was estimated to cost $23.5 million more and $139,000 per case prevented.  Since young adults infected with whooping cough don’t often become sick enough to require hospitalization, it was determined that the cost-benefit was not justified at that time.

VYF_Full-Infographic-1However, as morbidity and mortality reports began noting that infants had a substantially higher rates of pertussis and the largest burden of pertussis-related hospitalizations and deaths, the ACIP began addressing these concerns with new vaccine recommendations. Research determined that in 85% of infant cases of pertussis, when the source of infection could be identified, the infection was found to be passed on from a mother or other member of the immediate or extended family.

This information has since led to numerous ACIP pertussis vaccine recommendations. 

First, in 2008, the ACIP recommended pregnant women receive a Tdap booster in the postpartum period in hopes that they would be less likely to pass on infection.  The recommendation was later updated in 2011 to include pregnant women and anyone who anticipates having close contact with infants under 12 months of age.  Not only does this help prevent infection of the mother who may later pass pertussis on to her child, but it also helps provide protective maternal antibodies to the unborn baby.  They are then given some level of protection before they can begin getting their own pertussis vaccination at two months of age.

Then, in 2013, the ACIP began recommending that pregnant women receive a Tdap booster in the third trimester of each pregnancy.  This is important given the fact that the amount of antibodies in your body is highest about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine, but then starts to decrease over time.  Vaccination during every pregnancy ensures that each baby gets the greatest amount of protective antibodies possible.

Additionally, since 2006, it’s been recommended that every adult get a Tdap booster once in their lifetime, and yet it’s estimated that only 26% of adults have even had this recommended Tdap booster.

While the current ACIP recommendations are expected to help reduce the incidence of pertussis in infants, organizations such as Every Child By Two (ECBT) are helping to educate the public about the importance of Tdap vaccinations for pregnant women, adolescents and adults.  ECBT’s new Vaccinate Your Family program promotes the benefit of vaccines for all age groups.  A suite of new shareable materials, such as their Grandparent Toolkit, have been specifically designed to highlight the importance of protecting newborns by vaccinating those around them.


FB Image_12 23_4

So, while the future of pertussis vaccine recommendations remains in question, we will continue to monitor the discussion at upcoming ACIP meetings and use this forum to communicate any changes that are being discussed.  By subscribing to this blog, you’ll receive notification of our coverage of all the future ACIP meetings, to include one scheduled at the end of February, 2016.

For many, the biggest question of all is when will we see a new and more effective vaccine? While there certainly is a need, there doesn’t appear to be any promising alternatives on the horizon. 

For now, the best we can do is adhere to the recommendations in place and encourage others to do the same.  

After Losing Babies to Pertussis Parents Make Plea for Prevention

January 28, 2016 17 comments

How is it that three families, who’ve never actually met one another, find themselves sharing words of consolation and encouragement at the same time each year?

How is it that these three families are forever bonded by their children, and the courage and compassion they have to share their stories?  

Carter, Callie and Brady were just infants when they had to say goodbye.  But during this week, back in 2010 and 2012, three babies lost their fight to pertussis, (more commonly known as whooping cough) and their families were forever changed.

In 2008, Every Child By Two (ECBT) launched a program called Vaccinate Your Baby, which was inspired in large part by the Romaguera family, who had contacted the organization several years earlier after having lost their baby Gabrielle to pertussis.

In the days and months following the death of Carter, Callie and Brady, the Dube, Van Tornhout and Alcaide families also reached out to Every Child By Two in hopes that they could turn their personal tragedies into a public health mission.

VYF_Full-InfographicToday, as Every Child By Two Parent Advocates, their commitment to pertussis prevention has undoubtedly helped bring about many positive and live-saving changes. They have not only raised awareness of the importance of adult Tdap boosters, but their efforts have helped alter the way in which the public is advised to protect newborns from pertussis.

Prior to the death of their children, none of these families were educated on the need for adult Tdap boosters.  They’ve since devoted a great amount of time to sharing their stories; in media interviews, in state legislative chambers,  on podiums at public health conferences, and in blogs and Facebook posts shared widely on social media.

New Recommendations Are Helping in the Fight Against Pertussis

Today, leading professional organizations such as the AAP, the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), all recommend that pregnant women receive Tdap boosters in the third trimester of each pregnancy. This not only helps to protect the expectant mom from contracting pertussis and passing it onto their newborn, it also provides passive immunity to the unborn baby.  This practice helps protect infants before they begin receiving their own pertussis immunizations through a series of five DTaP vaccine doses that begin at two months of age.

Before the DTaP shot was routinely administered to infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough. However, thanks to greater immunization coverage and greater public awareness, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 deaths per year. Unfortunately, because the bacteria is still widely circulating in our communities and not everyone is adequately protected, whooping cough still makes people very sick.  In 2014, as many as 30,000 people were diagnosed with pertussis and each year many are still hospitalized. The real danger is among children under 12 month of age.  About half of these infants who get whooping cough are hospitalized, and tragically approximately 1 out of 100 infants who are hospitalized will die.  So how can we better protect these babies?

Research Continues to Guide Vaccine Recommendations

Research indicates that family members are often the source of infection among infants, and most family members are passing on the infection without ever realizing they have  pertussis themselves. In one recent study, approximately 85% of infants with pertussis got if from a member of their immediate or extended family.  This is why Tdap boosters are now recommended for all family members and caregivers who spend time around babies.  In fact, families members should get their Tdap booster at least two weeks prior to the expected arrival of the baby, since it’s estimated that it takes that long to acquire immunity after getting the vaccine.

Most recently, the efforts and experiences of our Every Child By Two Parent Advocates have even helped inspire the expansion of the Vaccinate Your Baby program to the Vaccinate Your Family program.  When people of all ages are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines, they’re less likely to pass illness on to our vulnerable infant population.

We encourage everyone to visit the adult section of the Vaccinate Your Family website, where there are several resources that specifically help educate older individuals about the need for adult Tdap boosters, to include materials for grandparents who want to help protect their young grandbabies.

Please familiarize yourself with this Grandparent Toolkit and share these materials among your friends, family and colleagues.

Health & Safety Checklist

Tips for Soothing a Fussy Baby

Pledge for Family Members and Friends to Sign

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Vaccines

Every Child By Two stands with our Parent Advocates in our mission to ensure that no family should ever have to endure what they’ve been through.  This week, as we mark the anniversary of the passing of Carter, Callie and Brady, may we each share this video and the many resources on the Vaccinate Your Family website in an effort to educate the public about pertussis prevention. 


Timehop Brings Back Pertussis Memories Too Painful to Forget

January 28, 2015 2 comments

When the Timehop app was introduced to Facebook not everyone was thrilled.  While most people loved being reminded of photos and updates shared on Facebook in years past, others complained that there were some events they would prefer not to be reminded of;  the loss of a job, the details of a difficult divorce, or the pain of losing someone we love.

PertussisAlmost three years ago, shortly after Jonathan and Kathryn lost their infant son Brady to pertussis, they reached out to Every Child By Two and expressed an interest in advocating for pertussis vaccinations.  They hoped that by sharing their son’s story they could help educate people on the dangers of pertussis and the importance of vaccination, especially in preventing exposure among children, like Brady, who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.

Being tasked to help them write their story was a challenge.  How could I ever hope to do it justice?

Then it occurred to me… Kathryn had been recording Brady’s story all along as she continuously updated her friends and family of his condition on Facebook.  I read her posts and could immediately empathize with the emotional roller coaster they were on.  The hope.  The fear.  The unimaginable sorrow of watching their beautiful baby suffer, and ultimately lose his life as a result of a preventable disease.  

Brady’s story was originally shared here on Shot of Prevention.  We then worked to also get it posted to a site called Shot By Shot, which serves as a virtual library of personal stories of vaccine preventable diseases.  From there, Brady’s story went viral.

Today we honor all our Every Child By Two parent advocates who continue to help us raise pertussis vaccine awareness.  This day not only marks Brady’s third angel-versary,  but also the fifth angel-versary of Carter Dube, and later this week the fifth angel-versary of Callie Van Tornhout.

While Timehop may be reminding you of a fun winter outing, a delicious dinner shared among friends, or an exciting new promotion, Brady’s mom Kathryn has been using Timehop with Facebook to remind us of how precious life is.  Brady may not be here with us physically, but his battle was not entirely lost.  Brady continues to fight today, as his family and friends share his story, in hopes that no more children are lost to pertussis.

💕 my bubba it was the calm before the storm 

󾬏 my bubba it was the calm before the storm 󾍄

Ugh I hate this disease!! No family should have to endure this pain vaccination is so important

Ugh I hate this disease!! No family should have to endure this pain 󾍄 vaccination is so important

Kathryn Riffenburg

18 hrs · Timehop · 

Our life turned upside down. I remember the ambulance ride and the rushing of the doctors when we reached Boston. We felt like we were dropped in the middle of a tornado everything happening so fast. We entered Boston with our son and left without him. I will also stand by what I advocate. Vaccines are important and save lives. Too many like Brady die because someone chooses not to vaccinate, and he was too young to receive his vaccines.

 — feeling heartbroken.

Our life turned upside down. I remember the ambulance ride and the rushing of the doctors when we reached Boston. We felt like we were dropped in the middle of a tornado everything happening so fast. We entered Boston with our son and left without him. I will also stand by what I advocate vaccines are important and save lives. Too many like Brady die because someone chooses not to vaccinate, and he was too young to receive his vaccines.

Kathryn Riffenburg

6 hrs · Timehop · 

This was my last update of Brady’s health. It was the worst pain to endure. Kissing your baby on the forehead and saying goodbye for the last time is something a parent should never have to do. These communicable diseases are nothing to take lightly. They take babies from there parents, siblings and families. The best line of protection we as parents can give to your own baby as well as other babies like Brady, is vaccination. Another parent should not be planning their child’s funeral because of these diseases. Or anything for that matter. Please light a candle for our bubba and tell his story to at least one other person today 💕

 — feeling emotional.

This was my last update of Brady's health. It was the worst pain to endure.  Kissing your baby on the forehead and saying goodbye for the last time is something a parent should never have to do.  These communicable diseases are nothing to take lightly. They take babies from there parents, siblings and families. The best line of protection we as parents can give to your own baby as well as other babies like Brady, is vaccination. Another parent should not be planning their child's funeral because of these diseases. Or anything for that matter. Please light a candle for our bubba and tell his story to at least one other person today 󾬏

We thank Kathryn for allowing us to share her personal posts, and we continue to thank all the strong and courageous parents who continue to share their personal sorrows in a public way in hopes of a better tomorrow.

A Standing Order of Pertussis Vaccine in Hospitals Boosts Protection

March 6, 2014 2 comments
Gabrielle "Brie" Romaguera, born January 13, 2003.  Passed away as a result of pertussis infection on March 6, 2003.

Gabrielle “Brie” Romaguera was born January 13, 2003 and passed away on March 6, 2003 at 52 days old as a result of a pertussis infection.

There is at least one family who is mourning today.  Eleven years ago they lost their daughter Brie  She was just 52 days old.  Sadly she succumbed to a disease called pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which they knew little about at the time.

Since Brie’s death we’ve learned that changes made to improve the safety of the pertussis vaccine may have resulted in a vaccine that is not as effective.  In the 1990’s the U.S.switched from whole-cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) to combined acelluar pertussis (DTaP) vaccine.  A study in the June 2013 issue of Pediatrics looked at individuals born between 1994 and 1999 who received four pertussis-containing vaccines.  The authors compared two groups during a 2009 and 2010 pertussis outbreak, some who received the older vaccine and some who received the newer DTaP.  They discovered that those who received the newer vaccine had a six times higher risk of contracting pertussis due to waning immunity compared to those who received the older vaccine.

While vaccines are a very effective way at preventing disease, they’re not perfect. Pertussis vaccines typically offer high levels of protection within the first 2 years of getting vaccinated, but then protection decreases over time.   In the case of pertussis, this also occurs with natural infection, meaning that even if you contract pertussis you do not retain any lifelong immunity and it’s possible to be infected again.

In general, DTaP vaccines are 80-90% effective in children with the highest protection following the fifth dose when 9 out of 10 kids are still fully protected.  In each year following the last dose there appears to be a modest decrease in effectiveness.  Still, five years after the last dose 7 out of 10 kids are still fully protected and the other 3 are partially protected.  So how long has it been since some adults have been vaccinated?  How much immunity do you suppose they have? Read more…

Infant Dies at 38 Days But Her Story Tries to Save Lives

January 30, 2014 6 comments

Katie and Craig Van Tornhout with their miracle baby CallieAfter five years and four miscarriages, Katie and Craig Van Tornhout celebrated the birth of their daughter Callie.   Although she arrived a few weeks early, she was truly their miracle baby.  But their joy quickly turned to grief when a disease called pertussis, also known as whooping cough, claimed her life at just 38 days old.

Katie explains,

“To an adult, pertussis can seem like just a stubborn cough, but to Callie and other newborns who are too young to be immunized, it can be deadly because they aren’t able to fight it off.   In an infant, it’s likely that this disease can result in respiratory failure.  IV tubes or ventilators may be needed to help a baby breathe and they are in danger of having their lungs shut down.  As a mother, I can’t tell you how heartbreaking this is to watch.”

Families_callie_van_tornhoutToday marks the four-year “angelversary” of Callie’s passing, and in that time a lot has changed.

In 2012, 48,277 people were diagnosed with pertussis and the Advisory Council of Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued new vaccine recommendations advising all expectant women to receive a Tdap booster with each pregnancy, preferably in their third trimester.  Not only does the vaccine help protect the mother from contracting pertussis and infecting her own newborn, it also provides maternal antibodies that can protect the newborn in those early months before the baby can be fully vaccinated.

ECBT_Pertussis English_Bus Shelter_HIGH RES SmallAnd a lot has changed for the Van Tornhout family as well.  In addition to their 17-year-old son Cole, the Van Tornhout’s have since had two other children, Chesney and Cain, with another on the way.  With each new pregnancy they have taken every precaution to protect their babies from pertussis, and every opportunity to educate others about the importance of their adult Tdap boosters.  Not only have they insisted that friends and family be immunized, but they’ve also ensured that every hospital staff member who has had contact with their babies was also up to date on their Tdap booster.

“We still wonder where Callie contracted pertussis. She was only five weeks old and never went anywhere except to see her doctor.  I wish I had known that Callie was vulnerable to this disease and I wish I had known about the need for adult Tdap boosters.  I would have insisted that I, my husband and our friends and family who came to visit be immunized. I would have asked more questions about the nurses who handled Callie in the NICU, and whether they had been immunized.” Read more…