Magazine article FDA Consumer

New Pertussis Vaccine Safer for Infants

Magazine article FDA Consumer

New Pertussis Vaccine Safer for Infants

Article excerpt

An acellular vaccine recently licensed by FDA protects infants against pertussis, or "whooping cough," while causing fewer side effects than whole-cell pertussis vaccines.

Acellular pertussis vaccines contain only parts of the pertussis bacterium thought to be important for immunity, while whole-cell vaccines contain the whole, killed bacterium.

Currently, children in the United States receive a whole-cell pertussis vaccine in combination with diphtheria-tetanus toxoid, or DTP, at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with additional doses of either a DTP or DT vaccine with an acellular pertussis component (DTaP) between 12 and 18 months and before entering elementary school.

The acellular vaccine licensed July 31 for the first three doses is one of two DTaP vaccines already approved for the fourth and fifth doses.

Pertussis is a highly communicable respiratory disease that can be especially serious for infants. The coughing and choking that occur make breathing difficult and can last for several weeks. Occasionally, infants can die from the disease.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1994 and 1995 a total of approximately 9,500 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States. The World Health Organization reports that pertussis causes approximately 350,000 deaths worldwide.

Safety data from a number of studies indicate that the DTaP vaccines cause fewer adverse reactions than DTP vaccines in the first three doses. …

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