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Senior citizens should be immunized for whooping cough, federal panel says

October 27, 2010 |  5:02 pm

Senior citizens should be vaccinated against whooping cough if they expect to be in contact with newborn infants, a federal health committee in Atlanta said Wednesday.

The vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention largely endorsed what California health officials have been saying since the summer: People 65 and older should get the Tdap shot, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

California is undergoing its worst outbreak of whooping cough in 60 years: Ten newborns have died, and more than 6,000 people in the state have been infected this year. The only way to protect the newborns is to prevent coughing family members and caregivers from infecting the babies.

Newborns are at the highest risk of dying from whooping cough.

The committee in Atlanta also said adolescents and adults who have not received a dose of the Tdap vaccine, or who do not know if they received the vaccine, should be inoculated immediately.

The Tdap shot was licensed for use in adolescents and adults up to age 64 in 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But in light of the accelerating outbreak, and with evidence that the inoculation is safe for seniors, California officials in July said anyone over 65should also receive the Tdap vaccine.

Despite the state’s recommendation, some physicians have been giving erroneous, outdated information to some older patients on whether they can get the shot. In August, Medicare issued a statement backing the California recommendation and confirmed that the Tdap shot is covered under the Part D drug plan. 

Here's a full list of the advisory committee’s recommendations:

-- Adolescents or adults who have not received a dose of Tdap, or for whom vaccine history is unknown, should be immunized as soon as feasible. Tdap can be administered regardless of the interval since the most recent inoculation with the tetanus or diphtheria vaccine.

-- For routine use, people ages 11 through 18 who have completed the recommended five-dose (a footnote will mention kids who are up to date with four doses) childhood DTP/DTaP vaccination series, and adults ages 19 through 64 years should receive a single dose of Tdap in place of one tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (Td) vaccine dose. Adolescents should preferably receive Tdap at a preventive care visit at 11 to 12 years of age.

--  Adults ages 65 years and older (who have not previously received Tdap) who anticipate having close contact with an infant ages less than 12 months (e.g., grandparents, child-care providers and healthcare personnel) should receive a single dose of Tdap to protect against pertussis and reduce the likelihood of transmission of pertussis to infants ages less than 12 months.

-- For adults ages 65 years and older, a single dose of Tdap vaccine may be given in place of a tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (Td) vaccine, in persons who have not previously received Tdap.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II


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