Weak Vaccine For 2012 Whooping Cough

By Tom Bacon

Last summer's alarming outbreak of whooping cough in Washington State may have resulted from vaccines too weak to ward off the disease.

A new study from a University of Minnesota research arm suggests that pertussis vaccines widely used since 1997 are failing to protect young children before they can get booster doses at age 11 or 12.

The study cited close tracking of whooping cough outbreaks in Oregon and Minnesota last year after more than  400-thousand kids got the full schedule of pertussis shots.

Following Washington's stunning outbreak of whooping cough last summer with more than 25-hundred cases, health officials had begun to suspect that the commonly used version of the vaccine simply wasn't up to the job of providing long-term immunity.

Most pertussis vaccines now in use are so-called a-cellular - that is, they're a combination of several specific antigens, rather than simply killed pertussis organisms.

The switch to a-cellular vaccines came because of unpleasant side effects of the killed organism type. But rates of pertussis have been rising in Washington and across the nation for several years now. For example, the incidence in Oregon has risen from just over 6 cases per 100,000 kids to more than 24 last year.

The striking and sudden increase in disease among 7-10-year olds that began in 2005 prompted public health officials to demand better vaccines. But researchers say that's a distant dream.
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