Adult Pertussis Vaccination

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My sister just had a baby and both her and her husband got the Adult Pertussis vaccination. I wanted to get one too but my sister didn't think I needed one since I'm not going to be around the baby as much as she and her husband are. Should I get one anyway? I really don't want to the baby sick.
Signed: Adult Pertussis Vaccination

Dear Adult Pertussis Vaccination,


It makes sense that your sister and brother-in-law were vaccinated for pertussis given the close and constant contact they are going to have with their new baby. However, getting vaccinated for pertussis is important for pre-teens and teens who will be around infants as well. Keep in mind that it is entirely possible that you have already been vaccinated for pertussis. Infants and children in the U.S. are generally given a series of 5 shots to protect against pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria called the DTaP. And pre-teens (and teens if they did not get it during their pre-teen years) are usually given a Tdap booster to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. So if you had your Tdap, you should be fine. If you do not know whether or not you have had a Tdap booster, or you know you definitely have not had it, speak to your parents and healthcare provider about getting this booster.

To reduce the chance of spreading germs to the baby, FX also recommends the following:

·         If you know you have pertussis, or any other illness that is contagious, stay away from the baby until your doctor clears you to be in contact with him or her.

·         If you have a cold or cough, again, keep your distance from the baby until you are well.

·         Even if you are not sick, wash your hands thoroughly before holding or feeding your newborn niece or nephew as you could be caring germs that won’t harm you but that would make the baby sick.


Some information about Pertussis:

What Is Pertussis?

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that attach to the cilia that line the upper respiratory system. The bacteria release toxins that damage the cilia and cause swelling. Early symptoms can include runny nose, nasal congestion, low-grade fever, mild cough, sneezing, watery eyes, and apnea in infants. As the disease progresses symptoms can include fits of rapid coughing ending with a high-pitched “whoop” sound, vomiting, and exhaustion after fits of coughing.


How Is Pertussis Spread?

Pertussis is a very contagious disease. It is usually spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with other people, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.


How Can Pertussis Be Prevented?

According to the CDC:

The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Also, keep infants and other people at high risk for pertussis complications away from infected people.

Keep in mind that pertussis vaccines are very effective in protecting a person from the disease, but that no vaccine in 100% effective. If you have a cold with a severe cough, or a cough that lasts for a long time, check in with your doctor and in the meantime, keep your distance from newborns and people with compromised immune systems. In addition, do you best to prevent the spread of germs (i.e., frequent hand-washing, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing).


When Should People Get The Pertussis Vaccine?

According to the CDC, in the U.S. the DTap booster, a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria and tetanus in addition to pertussis, should be given at the following ages:

·         2 months

·         4 months

·         6 months

·         Between 15 and 18 months

·         Between 4-6 years before the child starts school

Tdap is the booster that protects pre-teens, teens and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and has been available since about 2005. Tdap should be given to:

·         Pre-teens (11-12 years old) during their regular doctor check-up.

·         Teens who did not get this vaccine in their pre-teen years.

·         Adults who did not get Tdap as a pre-teen or teen should get one dose of Tdap.

·         Pregnant women who have not been previously vaccinated should get one does of Tdap postpartum before leaving the hospital or birthing center they have delivered in.

·         Adults 65 years and older (particularly grandparents, child care providers, and healthcare providers) who have close contact with infants should get a dose of Tdap.

·         Keep in mind that getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants.


Considerations for Specific Age Groups and Populations

The CDC recommends the following for:


Vaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria fades with time, so adults need a booster shot. Experts recommend adults receive a tetanus and diphtheria booster (called Td) every 10 years and substitute a Tdap vaccine for one of the boosters. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark. Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for adults who are around infants. Adults 65 years and older (grandparents, child care providers, and healthcare providers) who have close contact with infants should get a dose of Tdap, following the newest vaccine recommendations.

Remember that even fully-vaccinated adults can get pertussis. If you are caring for infants, check with your healthcare provider about what’s best for your situation.



Pertussis can cause serious illness ? especially in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated. Because vaccine protection fades over time, parents, especially those who will be around infants – need to be revaccinated to protect against pertussis as well as tetanus and diphtheria.

Women of child-bearing age should receive the Tdap booster shot – ideally before becoming pregnant. If not already vaccinated with Tdap, new mothers should get vaccinated before leaving the hospital with a newborn. Those around the infant – parents, siblings, grandparents (now including those 65 years and older), other family members, and nannies – are encouraged to get the appropriate vaccine (either DTaP or Tdap depending on age).


Infants & Children

The best way to protect infants and children from pertussis is to make sure they get vaccinated. The recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP. This is a combination vaccine that protects children against 3 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

For maximum protection against pertussis, children need 5 DTaP shots. The first 3 shots are given to infants at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. After receiving those 3 doses of DTaP, most infants are protected, but more shots are needed since this protection starts to fade once they become toddlers. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given before a child enters school, at 4–6 years of age. Parents can also help protect infants by keeping them away as much as possible from anyone who has cold symptoms or is coughing.

For 7-10 year olds who are not fully immunized with DTaP, a dose of Tdap should be received.


Pre-Teens & Teens

Vaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria can fade with time. Pre-teens going to the doctor for their regular check-up at age 11 or 12 years should get a dose of Tdap, a booster for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Teens who did not get this vaccine at the 11- or 12-year-old check-up should get vaccinated at their next visit. Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for pre-teens and teens who will be around infants.



Pertussis commonly occurs worldwide, even in countries with high vaccination rates. Infants too young to be protected with the first 3 DTaP shots are at greater risk of severe pertussis when traveling to countries where pertussis is common.

Travelers should be up-to-date with recommended pertussis vaccinations before departure.

Signed: TeenHealthFX