Don’t Forget Your Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Booster!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended a booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine for people between the ages of 11 and 64 years and those older than 65 if they come in close contact with infants.

Babies under 6 months are not yet protected from the bacteria that causes whooping cough –bordetella pertussis — even if they get their shots right on schedule. That’s because  three shots, given at 2, 4, and 6 months, are required before the infant immune system can gear up and produce the weapons needed to ward off infection.

Older children and adults are exposing these tiny tots to the dangerous bug, even if they were vaccinated when they were young, because immunity does NOT last a lifetime. A booster shot is required for everyone older than 11, especially those who are around small babies.

This provides what we call ‘herd immunity’, which means if 90% of the population is immunized against infection, those who aren’t vaccinated themselves because they’re too young or too ill will still be protected because the organism will not be passed around the community.

It’s an ingenious strategy and it works — but only if we all do our part. So call your doctor, find out where you can get your Tdap, and make sure your kids’ shots are up to date, too. We owe it to the babies.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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