Health officials claim that whooping cough, more formally known by the name, pertussis, is staging a comeback in the United States. And they to no one’s surprise, the anti-vaccine community is being blamed for it.
The highly contagious respiratory infection typically results in severe instances of coughing fits, but not always.
Per CDC reports, there were less than 2,000 cases during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2012, there were 48,000 reported whooping cough cases. The numbers have since come down, however, that hasn’t stopped health officials from sounding the vaccine alarms.
“Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause serious illness in babies, children, teens, and adults. Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within five to 10 days after you are exposed. Sometimes pertussis symptoms do not develop for as long as three weeks,” according to the CDC. However, it is important to note that whooping cough is only a serious infection in infants under three months of age; in older persons, it is not deadly; it is simply known as the “one-hundred-day cough.”
This study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, is one of many that blames lack of vaccinations on the recent surge in pertussis cases.
But there is one big problem with that. The vaccine itself is increasingly ineffective.
The CDC recommends that all babies receive the DTaP and 2-4-and-6 months of age. The vaccine includes diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis toxoids. Teens and adults are advised to get a Tdap booster shot to protect infants, a procedure referred to as “cooning.”
But many feel that it is the pertussis vaccine itself that has failed and is the blame for rising pertussis cases. In September of 2017, an article published in F1000 Research pointed out that variations in mucosal immunity between whole-cell pertussis (wP) vaccines and the newer acellular pertussis (aP) vaccines are the cause of the resurgence. The US stopped using wP in 2002.
This disease is back because we didn’t really understand how our immune defenses against whooping cough worked, and did not understand how the vaccines needed to work to prevent it,” said Christopher J. Gill, associate professor of global health and lead author of the article. “Instead we layered assumptions upon assumptions, and now find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of admitting that we may made some crucial errors. This is definitely not where we thought we’d be in 2017.”
This research confirms what researchers Gabutti, et al, published in 2015, saying, “Although antibodies produced against the B. pertussis antigens are thought to play a crucial role in protecting against the infection, that amount of antibody needed to provide clinical protection is not currently known.”
Are there more pertussis infection?
A WHO position paper, also published in 2015, analyzed data from 19 high and middle-income countries that had high DTaP or DTwP vaccination rates. There was no evidence of a widespread resurgence of pertussis. In fact, they concluded that in countries where the incidence of pertussis appeared to be going up, it was mainly due to the 3-5 year cyclic pattern of the Bordetella pertussis. This means the effort eliminate pertussis infections will never occur, irrespective of vaccination rates.