Mind and Body

Panel: Seniors should get whooping cough shots

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 03: Marina Spelzini, a registered nurse, measures out an H1N1 vaccine shot at the Miami Dade County Health Department downtown clinic on November 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  Unlike other parts of the country which are experiencing long lines and shortages of the vaccine, South Florida is not having this problem. The Miami-Dade County Health Department received 195,000 doses of the vaccine but has only given out about 10,100. Broward County has 52,000 doses on hand and has administered about 10,000 doses.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 03: Marina Spelzini, a registered nurse, measures out an H1N1 vaccine shot at the Miami Dade County Health Department downtown clinic on November 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Unlike other parts of the country which are experiencing long lines and shortages of the vaccine, South Florida is not having this problem. The Miami-Dade County Health Department received 195,000 doses of the vaccine but has only given out about 10,100. Broward County has 52,000 doses on hand and has administered about 10,000 doses. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

A federal advisory panel is recommending that all Americans age 65 and older get vaccinated against whooping cough.

Health officials believe whooping cough is underreported in older adults. But a goal of Wednesday's recommendation is to prevent older adults from spreading the disease to infants, who are most vulnerable.

The shot is already recommended for younger adults and a whooping cough vaccine is included in childhood shots.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that in rare cases can be fatal. It leads to severe coughing that causes children to make a distinctive whooping sound as they gasp for breath.

Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are usually adopted by the government, which sends the guidance out to doctors.