- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The government approved the first whooping cough booster shot meant for adolescents yesterday, a vaccine that doctors hope will curb a disease that’s making a dangerous comeback.

GlaxoSmithKline’s Boostrix adds whooping cough protection to a booster shot against two other diseases — tetanus and diphtheria — that already is supposed to be administered to children sometime between ages 10 and 18.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a bacterial infection that causes a cough so violent in can break a rib. Initial coldlike symptoms lead to fits of 16 to 20 coughs that leave patients gasping for air — the distinctive “whoop” that gave the disease its name.

Babies and youngsters have been vaccinated against whooping cough since the 1940s, causing the disease to plummet in industrialized nations.

But it’s on the rise again largely because of outbreaks among teenagers and adults, which illustrate that the vaccine’s protection wears off — often by adolescence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received 18,957 reports of whooping cough last year, up from 11,647 in 2003 and just 1,707 in 1980 — and about a third are among adolescents.

Experts say the number is certainly an underestimate, because whooping cough frequently goes undiagnosed in teens and adults.

The real threat is not to the older patients: Whooping cough can kill newborns before they are old enough to get their first doses of pertussis vaccine; so the greater the number of older children and adults who get the disease, the more likely vulnerable babies will be infected.

Indeed, since 1990, pertussis has risen 72 percent among babies younger than 4 months, the age when vaccine protection begins to take hold.

Glaxo’s Boostrix uses the same pertussis protection as is in the company’s infant vaccine, but at a lower booster dose, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Studies showed that adolescents given the booster shot had immune-system responses that indicate adequate protection, but it is not known how long the renewed immunity will last, the agency said.

The most common vaccine side effects were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Headaches, fever and fatigue for a short period after the shot also were reported.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide