We all know there’s something of a whooping cough outbreak these days. In fact, there are 25,000 cases a year in the U.S., roughly, and have been for a decade–26,000 so far in 2012. The autism-vaccine debate has spawned plenty of accusations against vaccine refusers: they must be the cause of this.
But in fact, most of those who came down with the potentially deadly disease were vaccinated. And this info comes from the Centers for Disease Control, normally a vaccine proponent.
A new study published in yesterday’s New England Journal of Medicine identifies the culprit: the whooping cough vaccine introduced in the 1990s, a weaker version of the previous vaccine which had caused problems. This new study says that this safer vaccine loses effectiveness much faster than previously thought. The protective effect weakens soon after the children get the last of their five shots at around age 6.
What to do? Health officials are considering adding more booster shots to the schedule for older children. Whooping cough is most dangerous to children. They’d also like to see another vaccine, but none is close to ready for use.