Whooping cough, a disease once thought to be a relic of medical history is making a comeback in the 21st century. It is becoming a real threat for the infants of today. Most parents, have heard of the DPaT vaccine but don’t understand what it does to help their children. Many parents are finding out the hard way just how important it is to the health of their young infants. Among the myriads of vaccines available for infants, the DPaT vaccine is well-worth special notice. The DPaT vaccine prevents three harmful and possibly lethal diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis ( also known as whooping cough). Whooping cough is the most common of the three and is highly contagious, causing uncontrollable coughing, choking, and dangerous difficulty in breathing. Because of its effectiveness, the DPaT vaccine is a highly recommended vaccine for infants, and requires repeated injections at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. For a variety of reasons, many infants are not receiving this vital vaccine at a young enough age to prevent life-threatening pertussis.
A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed how important it is for your children to get their DPaT shots on time. These researchers revealed that missing doses of DTaP drastically increases the risk of contracting whooping cough. Jason Glanz, of Kaiser Permanante Colorado, and his colleagues examined children from 3 months to 3 years who missed three or four doses of DPaT. Alarmingly these children were 19 times and 28 times more likely to have whooping cough, respectively than their vaccinated friends. Dr. Glanz also found that almost half of all the cases of whooping cough he studied occurred in children who had missed doses of the vaccine. Researchers predicted that almost 40% of those cases of whooping cough could have been prevented with on-time vaccinations. The research is clear; the risk of catching whooping cough drastically increases with each missed vaccine. It is now clear that late and missed vaccination with DPaT vaccine is part of the cause of the recent outbreak of whooping cough across the U.S.
So, if your child is up to date on all their DPaT vaccinations, keep up the good work! If you think your child may have missed a dose, please don’t hesitate to call your doctor and schedule an appointment. Life gets hectic, and sometimes it’s really easy for a little vaccine to slip through the cracks but remember, prevention is the best medicine, so make those appointments a priority!
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Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.