Pertussis vaccines aren’t perfect.
Few people claim that.
But what’s the problem with them?
Most experts think that the main issue is waning immunity.
While the acellular pertussis vaccines (DTaP and Tdap) that replaced the more effective whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) do work, the immunity they provide does not last as long as we would like.
They still work better than not getting vaccinated at all though.
Pertactin-Negative Pertussis Bacteria
What about the fact that we are starting to find pertactin-negative pertussis bacteria?
Does that mean that Bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that cause pertussis or whooping cough, have mutated and are causing a pertussis resurgence because they are resistant to the vaccine?
“CDC is currently conducting studies in the United States to determine whether pertactin deficiency is one of the factors contributing to the increase in the number of reported pertussis cases. CDC will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate all available scientific evidence before drawing any conclusions. There is also no suggestion that these new strains are causing more severe cases of pertussis.”
CDC on Pertactin-Negative Pertussis Strains
While pertactin-negative pertussis are certainly a thing, there is already evidence saying that they are not driving pertussis outbreaks – evidence that anti-vaccine folks like to ignore:
- pertactin is only one of the components (antigens) of the pertussis bacteria that are in pertussis vaccines that help them to induce immunity. Others can include filamentous hemagglutinin, chemically or genetically detoxified pertussis toxin, and fimbrial-2 and fimbrial-3 antigens.
- pertussis vaccines continue to be effective against pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis bacteria
- pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis bacteria have not been found in all areas experiencing outbreaks of pertussis, as you would expect if they were driving these outbreaks
- the first pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis bacteria were found as early as the 1990s, long before we started using the current acellular versions of pertussis vaccines and before we started seeing an increase in outbreaks.
Also of note, pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis bacteria do not cause more severe symptoms than pertactin-positive bacteria.
“Although pertussis vaccines aren’t perfect, vaccination remains our best prevention tool and we should continue to maintain high levels of DTaP coverage among children, sustain Tdap coverage in adolescents and increase Tdap coverage in adults and pregnant women. ”
CDC on Coughing up the Facts on Pertussis
Most importantly, it should be clear that pertussis vaccines work as we are not seeing pre-vaccine era levels of pertussis, even as we do see some outbreaks.
What To Know About Pertactin-Negative Pertussis
Pertactin-negative pertussis bacteria are not driving outbreaks of pertussis or whooping cough, and they have not become resistant to pertussis vaccines.
More About Pertactin-Negative Pertussis Bacteria
- CDC – Pertactin-Negative Pertussis Strains
- CDC – Coughing up the Facts on Pertussis: Emerging Trends and Vaccine Recommendations
- Study – Pertussis Vaccine Effectiveness in the Setting of Pertactin-Deficient Pertussis
- Study – Virulence of Pertactin-Negative Bordetella pertussis Isolates from Infants, France
- Study – Acellular pertussis vaccines and the role of pertactin and fimbriae
- Study – Investigations into the emergence of pertactin-deficient Bordetella pertussis isolates in six European countries, 1996 to 2012
- The problem of waning pertussis immunity
- Effectiveness of pertussis vaccines–science vs. lies
- Two Recent Studies on Pertussis