Pertussis (Whooping Cough) vaccine – Who should receive the Tdap vaccine?
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a serious infection of the respiratory tract caused by a bacteria called bordetella pertussis. It is easily spread through close contact with nose and throat droplets of infected people through coughing and sneezing, sharing cigarettes, food or drinks.
Symptoms are similar to a common cold: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and coughing. Pertussis can cause a series of severe coughing spells that can continue for 6-12 weeks. The infection can be spread in the beginning of infection up to three weeks after the cough starts.
The characteristic ‘ whooping cough’ is described as severe, repeated and forceful coughing spells that can end with a whooping sound. It is more common at night and can cause gagging and difficulty breathing. Pertussis is serious for infants as the most serious complications and deaths occur in this age group. Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis infection as they have not yet received their three pertussis vaccines to ensure they develop immunity. In British Columbia, infants receive pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, followed by booster doses at 18 mos, 4-6 years and in grade 9.
Pertussis can only be confirmed by your health care provider examining your physical symptoms and obtaining lab results. Early treatment is more effective. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat pertussis. Isolation from unimmunized contacts, children and infants for at least five days of antibiotic treatment is advised.
The vaccine given to prevent pertussis also contains tetanus and diphtheria antigens (Tdap). British Columbia residents who were born and attended school in BC, received a pertussis vaccine in high school (grade 9) or in childhood, as part of the recommended routine vaccination schedule. The BC Centre for Disease Control recommends a booster dose of pertussis vaccine for adults who were immunized in childhood.
PREGNANCY AND INFANT CAREGIVERS
Adults are a major source of transmission to infants. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) states “every effort should be made to administer one dose of pertussis containing vaccine in adulthood. Therefore, one dose of combined diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis containing vaccine (Tdap) can be offered to pregnant women > 26 weeks gestation who have not been previously vaccinated against pertussis in adulthood. Vaccinating pregnant women >26 weeks gestation increases maternal antibody transfer and provides immediate protection to infants at greatest risk of mortality. It also prevents new mothers from acquiring pertussis and passing on the infection to their infant” February 2014, Public Health Agency of Canada.
Travellers who have not received a dose of pertussis vaccine since childhood or require a booster dose of tetanus are recommended to receive an adult booster of pertussis vaccine due to increasingly frequent pertussis outbreaks worldwide.
IF YOU RECENTLY RECEIVED A TETANUS VACCINE
It is safe to receive the Tdap vaccine even if you have been vaccinated at any time within the last ten years of a tetanus booster dose.
The Tdap vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In BC, the vaccine is provided free to adults who have not been fully vaccinated. For most adults, including pregnant women, the vaccine is $45.00. If you’d like to arrange an appointment, please call 604.-251-1975.