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Infection Control

Would a booster shot help prevent whooping cough?

June 28, 2010
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SACRAMENTO, CA — Whether the elderly should get a booster shot despite their age is one of the puzzles complicating the fight against whooping cough, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The booster shot is not being given widely, even in hospital maternity wards, where doctors long have advised that each new mother get it, the article stated.
Little babies are most vulnerable because their airways are immature and they haven''t gotten the full series of childhood shots that begins when they are 2 months old, the article noted.
According to the article, public health officials would like to see those infants "cocooned" in a circle of family safety: A household in which every sibling and adult has a current immunization as soon as the baby is born.
Adults get whooping cough far more often than they realize, because it often feels just like a cold with a lingering cough: Doctors now believe immunity from childhood vaccinations wears off over time, and that adolescents and adults have been unwittingly spreading the disease, the article added.
But what about a grandmother or grandfather, 65 or up, who might cuddle or rock a newborn, the article asked.
"If you''re in close contact with an infant, no matter what age you are, you need to talk to your doctor about the benefits of vaccination," said Dr. John Talarico, chief of the Immunization Branch at the California Department of Public Health.
Vaccine manufacturers are studying older populations, which already get the booster in some European countries: Those studies have made it clear the booster shot is safe in older people, Talarico said, and he expects the age limit to be changed once more data are in.
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