Whooping cough vaccine safe for older adults

Published November 30, 2012

| MyHealthNewsDaily

The whooping cough vaccine recommended for all adults is safe for those over 65, a new study says.

The results show that the vaccine, called Tdap — which protects against whooping cough (also called pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria —  does not increase the risk of adverse reactions among adults age 65 and older compared to that of the traditional tetanus-diphtheria vaccine, known as Td.

The findings are in agreement with the current recommendation to provide Tdap to adults age 65 and older.

While this recommendation was made in 2010, the vaccine was initially used off label in adults 65 and older, and wasn't licensed for this age group until 2011. The new study was done because published research on the safety of the vaccine in older adults is limited. As more people 65 and over get vaccinated as a result of the new recommendation, evaluation of its safety is essential, the researchers said.

Study researcher Hung Fu Tseng and colleagues at Kaiser Permanente Southern California analyzed information from 119,573 adults ages 65 and over who received the Tdap vaccine between 2006 and 2010, and a similar number of older adults who received the Td vaccine during the same period. The researchers examined the risk for adverse events, such as allergic reactions, for up to 42 days after people received the vaccination.

The risk for adverse events   following the vaccination was about the same for both groups.

Vaccination against pertussis is important in light of  recent outbreaks of the disease in the United States. More cases of whooping cough are expected to occur this year than in any other year since 1959. Infants are most at risk for death from the disease, but they can’t be vaccinated until 2 months of age.

"Pertussis immunization is important, particularly since one of the most common sources of pertussis in infants are  relatives, including grandparents," Tseng said. "We suggest that clinicians follow the CDC's recommendation and talk to older adult patients about vaccination against pertussis to protect themselves and their family members."

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