It depends, but most folks might never have it done!
Vaccines work very well, so you would typically not need to routinely check and confirm that you are immune after being vaccinated. And, this is also important, the vaccine titer tests don’t always work that well, titer testing isn’t available for all vaccines (you can’t do titer testing for Hib and pertussis), and the testing can be expensive.
So we usually just do the testing (a quantitative titer) for folks that are in high risk situations, including:
pregnancy – rubella titer only (HBsAg is also done, but that’s not a vaccine titer test, but rather to see if you are chronically infected with hepatitis B)
healthcare workers – anti-HBs (antibody to the hepatitis B surface antigen to confirm immunity after being vaccinated)
students in nursing school and medical school, etc. – anti-HBs
children and adults exposed in an outbreak – measles, chicken pox, mumps, etc., but only if we are unsure if they were previously vaccinated and protected
after a needlestick injury, etc. – to confirm immunity to hepatitis B
internationally adopted children – to confirm that they are immune if we unsure about all of the vaccines the child got in other countries
children and adults with lost vaccine records – to confirm that they are immune, since we are unsure about all of the vaccines they got
evaluation of children and adults with immune system problems – to help identify what immune system problems they might have – typically involves checking pneumococcal titers, giving Prevnar, and then checking pneumococcal titers again
people at continuous or frequent risk for rabies – rabies titer testing every 6 months to 2 years
patients with inflammatory bowel disease, before starting immunosuppressive therapy – hepatitis A and hepatitis B titers, as they might be at increased risk for hepatitis
While checking titers is easy, it is sometimes harder to know what to do with the results you get.
It is especially important to know that:
most people don’t need to have their titers checked routinely if they are not in one of the high-risk groups noted above
it isn’t practical to get titers tested as a method of potentially skipping one or more doses of your child’s vaccines, after all, if the titer is negative, then you are still going to have to get vaccinated
a healthcare provider with a negative measles titer after two doses of the MMR vaccine does not need another dose of vaccine
a healthcare provider who has anti-HBs <10 mIU/mL (negative titer) after three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine should get another dose of vaccine and repeat testing in 1 to 2 months – if still <10 mIU/mL, they should then get two more doses of hepatitis B vaccine (for a total of 6 doses) and repeat testing. If still negative, these documented nonresponders will need HBIG as post-exposure prophylaxis for any future hepatitis B exposures, but no further doses of hepatitis B vaccine.
vaccinated women of childbearing age who have received one or two doses of rubella-containing vaccine and have rubella serum IgG levels that is not clearly positive should be administered one additional dose of MMR vaccine, with a maximum of three doses, and should not be tested again
in addition to not being able to test titers for pertussis and Hib immunity, it is becoming difficult to test poliovirus type 2 titers, as the test uses a live virus that isn’t routinely available anymore (type 2 polio has been eradicated)
Dr. Judy Mikovits has a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, doing her thesis on Negative Regulation of HIV Expression in Monocytes.
She had several papers published with Dr. Frank Ruscetti, with whom she continues to work.
Instead of research, it seems that they now do:
Advocacy for vaccine injury legal cases worldwide.
Research and documentation on medical exemptions for vaccinations.
Who Is Judy Mikovits?
After working at the National Cancer Institute, it seems that Judy Mikovits became research director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI).
She was eventually fired after a paper she was lead author on, which found xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) in patients with CFS, was retracted and the institute accused her of stealing notebooks and manipulating data.
“But the leader of the team that authored the 2009 paper, researcher Judy Mikovits, apparently presented the same figure — carrying different labels and supporting a different point — in a talk given at a conference on Sept. 23 in Ottawa.”
Manipulation alleged in paper linking virus, chronic fatigue syndrome
An even larger study found no evidence of XMRV infections in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, even as she had claimed the virus could cause CFS, Parkinson’s disease, autism and multiple sclerosis.
The source of XMRV in her patients?
“Well-controlled experiments showed that detection of XMRV was due to contaminated samples and was not a marker of or a causal factor in prostate cancer or CFS.”
Johnson et al on Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus (XMRV) and the Safety of the Blood Supply
The virus was in a contaminated cell line in which she and others were doing research. The virus wasn’t in the actual patients themselves.
Judy Mikovits on Vaccines
Before her paper was retracted and she was fired from her lab, Judy Mikovits did actually do research on viruses and she is a scientist. She didn’t do research on vaccines though.
That seems to be something she talks about a lot now though:
at anti-vaccine rallies
at anti-vaccine conferences
in anti-vaccine videos
Her claim to fame seems to be talking about contaminated vaccines and bashing Gardasil. And deep state conspiracy theories about why she was arrested and lost her job.
To be clear, a rotavirus vaccine was found to be contaminated with DNA of porcine circovirus type 1. While that might sound a little scary, it is important to keep in mind that the PCV1 virus doesn’t actually cause disease in people and these weren’t even “biologically active virus particles.”
PCV1 isn’t a retrovirus though and Judy Mikovits wasn’t even the researcher who discovered the contamination, which has since been resolved.
“These findings do not indicate the presence of either ALV or EAV infection in MMR vaccine recipients and provide support for current immunization policies.”
Hussain et al on Lack of Evidence of Endogenous Avian Leukosis Virus and Endogenous Avian Retrovirus Transmission to Measles Mumps Rubella Vaccine Recipients
Studies have looked at retrovirus contamination of vaccines, but they were done over 17 years ago. And not by Mikovits. Studies that confirmed that vaccines are safe.
None of this has kept Judy Mikovits from scaring people about vaccines, especially the HPV vaccine.
“Cervical cancer is not a public health threat. It’s not an infectious disease. Why is it in the Department of Public Health? Why are we mandating every child over 9 years old, and I heard soon to be pregnant women, to get this vaccine? It makes no sense.”
It is really hard to understand how someone who worked at the National Cancer Institute could make these statements. Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women.
There is, of course, no mandate for 9-year-olds to get the HPV vaccine. In the United States, HPV vaccination is recommended, beginning at age 11 to 12 years. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women and while several vaccines are recommended, no vaccines are actually mandated in pregnancy.
“It was never developed to prevent cancer. It was developed and approved to prevent warts. Warts are not a public health threat. It’s beyond… When scientists like myself, and I work in cancer and AIDS hear this, we are just…”
Gardasil and Cervarix were developed to prevent HPV infections, which cause cervical cancer. HPV can also cause genital warts.
“I think we need to ban… Japan and India have, all HPV vaccinations now, until the appropriate studies are done, until the patients are tested…”
We know that pregnant women are supposed to get a flu vaccine.
Although recommendations on exactly when to get it have changed over the years, it has been a universal recommendation since at least the 1994-95 flu season.
How Does a Mother’s Flu Shot Protect a Newborn Baby?
One obvious way that a flu shot provides protection during pregnancy is that it reduces your risk of getting the flu while you are pregnant.
That’s good, as having the flu while you are pregnant can lead to preterm labor, a premature birth, birth defects, or a miscarriage. And of course, the flu can be life-threatening for pregnant women.
Getting a flu shot while you are pregnant can also help to make sure that you don’t get the flu after your baby is born, which not only keeps you healthy, but decreases the chance that your baby will be exposed to the flu. After all, if you get the flu, no matter how much you try to cover your cough and wash your hands, there is a good chance that you will give it to your baby.
And since babies can’t get flu shots of their own until they are at least six months old, a flu shot during pregnancy helps to make sure that your baby gets some of antibodies to protect them from the flu.
“When you get a flu shot, your body makes antibodies that also pass to your fetus. This means your baby has protection against the flu after birth. This is important because infants less than 6 months of age are too young to get the flu shot.”
Frequently Asked Questions for Patients Concerning Influenza (Flu) Vaccination During Pregnancy
Do you have to wait until late in your pregnancy to make sure that the most antibodies get passed to your baby?
While that might seem like a good idea, especially since that’s what we do for the Tdap vaccine and protection against pertussis, there are several reasons that we don’t do that with the flu vaccine, including that:
pregnant mothers need the protection before flu season hits, so waiting would not be safe and could mean that you get sick with the flu before getting your shot
protection from the flu vaccine shouldn’t wane or wear off so quickly that you need to get it later, after all, the earliest that you can get vaccinated is when flu vaccines first become available in August or September and that should provide good protection past the peak of flu season
When you get your flu shot while pregnant is going to have more to do with when you got pregnant in relation to the start of flu season more than anything else.
“The flu shot can be safely given during any trimester. Pregnant women can get the flu shot at any point during the flu season (typically October through May). Pregnant women should get the shot as soon as possible when it becomes available. If you are pregnant, talk with your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care provider about getting the flu shot.”
Frequently Asked Questions for Patients Concerning Influenza (Flu) Vaccination During Pregnancy
Most importantly, remember that flu shots are considered an “essential component of prenatal care.”
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each year, since pregnant women are in a high risk group for flu complications, you should especially make sure that you get vaccinated and protected if you are pregnant. Everyone around you should get vaccinated too!
13 vaccines, including 5 doses of DTaP, 4 doses of IPV (polio), 3 or 4 doses of hepatitis B, 3 or 4 doses of Hib (the number of doses depends on the vaccine brand used), 4 doses of Prevnar, 2 or 3 doses of rotavirus (the number of doses depends on the vaccine brand used), 2 doses of MMR, 2 doses of Varivax (chicken pox), 2 doses of hepatitis A, 1 doses of Tdap, 2 or 3 doses of HPV (the number of doses depends on the age you start the vaccine series), 2 doses of MCV4 (meningococcal vaccine), and yearly influenza vaccines
protection against 16 vaccine-preventable diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, HPV, rotavirus, Hib, and flu
about 28 doses of those vaccines by age two years (with yearly flu shots)
about 35 doses of those vaccines by age five years (with yearly flu shots)
as few as 23 individual shots by age five years if your child is getting combination vaccines, like Pediarix or Pentacel and Kinrix or Quadracel and Proquad
about 54 doses of those vaccines by age 18 years, with a third of that coming from yearly flu vaccines
How do you get a number like 72?
You can boost your count to make it look scarier by counting the DTaP, MMR, and Tdap vaccines as three separate vaccines each, even though they aren’t available as individual vaccines anymore.
This trick of anti-vaccine math quickly turns these 8 shots into “24 doses.”
At age four years, when your preschooler routinely gets their DTaP, IPV, MMR, and chicken pox shots before starting kindergarten, how many vaccines or doses do you think they got? Two, because they got Kinrix or Quadracel (DTaP/IPV combo) and Proquad (MMR/chickenpox combo)? Four, because they got separate shots? Or Eight, because you think you should count each component of each vaccine separately?
Know that even if you do want to count them separately, it really just means that with those two or four shots, your child got protection against eight different vaccine-preventable diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox.
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd. You don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to protect you from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Of course, this is a terrible strategy, as we are seeing with the increase in cases of measles and pertussis, etc. It is much better to learn about the importance and safety of vaccines, get fully vaccinated, and stop these outbreaks.
But as they continue to tell you that vaccines don’t work, how about asking what they would do in these ten high-risk situations?
Amazingly, some folks continue to try and justify skipping vaccines and accept the risk of disease, even when that risk is much higher than usual and they could be putting their child’s life in immediate danger!
How will you do with our quiz?
Would you choose to vaccinate in these situations?
1. Baby born to mother with hepatitis B.
You are pregnant and have chronic hepatitis B (positive for both HBsAg and HBeAg). Should your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
Many anti-vaccine experts tell parents to skip their baby’s hepatitis B shot, saying it is dangerous, not necessary, or doesn’t work (typical anti-vax myths and misinformation).
However, it is well known that:
from 10 (HBeAg negative) to 90% (HBeAg positive) of infants who are born to a mother with chronic hepatitis B will become infected
90% of infants who get hepatitis B from their mother at birth develop chronic infections
25% of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from liver failure and liver cancer
use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine series greatly decreases a newborn’s risk of developing a hepatitis B infection (perinatal transmission of hepatitis B), especially if HBIG and the first hepatitis B shot is given within 12 hours of the baby being born
Would your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
2. Your child is bitten by a rabid dog.
Your toddler is bitten by a dog that is almost certainly rabid. Several wild animals in the area have been found to be rabid recently and the usual playful and well-mannered dog was acting strangely and died a few hours later. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies and unfortunately, the owners, fearing they would get in trouble, disappeared with the dead dog, so it can’t be quarantined. Should your child get a rabies shot?
Although now uncommon in dogs, rabies still occurs in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These animals can then expose and infect unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, etc.
To help prevent rabies, which is not usually treatable, in addition to immediately cleaning the wound, people should get human rabies immune globulin (RIG) and rabies vaccine.
The rabies vaccine is given as a series of four doses on the day of exposure to the animal with suspected rabies and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.
Although rare in the United States, at least 1 to 3 people do still die of rabies each year. The rabies vaccine series and rabies immune globulin are preventative, however, without them, rabies is almost always fatal once you develop symptoms. A few people have survived with a new treatment, the Milwaukee protocol, without getting rabies shots, but many more have failed the treatment and have died.
Although the first MMR vaccine is routinely given when children are 12 months old, it is now recommended that infants get vaccinated as early as age six months if they will be traveling out of the country.
Since the endemic spread of measles was stopped in 2000, almost all cases are now linked to unvaccinated travelers, some of whom start very large outbreaks that are hard to contain.
Would you both get vaccinated before making the trip?
4. Tetanus shot.
Your unvaccinated teen gets a very deep puncture wound while doing yard work. A few hours later, your neighbor comes by to give you an update on his wife who has been in the hospital all week. She has been diagnosed with tetanus. She had gotten sick after going yard work in the same area and has been moved to the ICU. Do you get him a tetanus shot?
Most children get vaccinated against tetanus when they receive the 4 dose primary DTaP series, the DTaP booster at age 4-6 years, and the Tdap booster at age 11-12 years.
Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not contagious. The spores of tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) are instead found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses, etc.
Although the tetanus spores are common in soil, they need low oxygen conditions to germinate. That’s why you aren’t at risk for tetanus every time your hands get dirty. A puncture wound creates the perfect conditions for tetanus though, especially a deep wound, as it will be hard to clean out the tiny tetanus spores, and there won’t be much oxygen at the inner parts of the wound.
These types of deep wounds that are associated with tetanus infections might including stepping on a nail, getting poked by a splinter or thorn, and animal bites, etc. Keep in mind that some of these things, like a cat bite, might put you at risk because you simply had dirt/tetanus spores on your skin, which get pushed deep into the wound when the cat bites you.
Symptoms of tetanus typically develop after about 8 days and might include classic lockjaw, neck stiffness, trouble swallowing, muscle spasms, and difficulty breathing. Even with treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 11% of people and recovery takes months.
Would you get your teen a tetanus shot?
5. Cocooning to protect baby from pertussis.
Both of your unvaccinated teens go to school with a personal belief vaccine exemption. You are due in a few months and are a little concerned about the new baby because there have been outbreaks of pertussis in the community, especially at their highschool. Should everyone in the family get a Tdap shot?
Pertussis, or whooping cough, classically causes a cough that can last for weeks to months.
While often mild in teens and adults, pertussis can be life-threatening in newborns and infants. In fact, it is young children who often develop the classic high-pitched whooping sound as they try to breath after a long coughing fit.
In a recent outbreak of pertussis in California, 10 infants died. Almost all were less than 2 months old.
Since infants aren’t protected until they get at least three doses of a pertussis vaccine, usually at age 6 months, experts recommend a cocooning strategy to protect newborns and young infants from pertussis. With cocooning, all children, teens, and adults who will be around the baby are vaccinated against pertussis (and other vaccine-preventable diseases), so that they can’t catch pertussis and bring it home.
There is even evidence that a pregnancy dose of Tdap can help protect infants even more than waiting until after the baby is born to get a Tdap shot.
Would everyone in your family get a Tdap shot?
6. Nephew is getting chemotherapy.
Your nephew was just diagnosed with leukemia and is going to start chemotherapy. Your kids have never been vaccinated against chicken pox and haven’t had the disease either. Your brother asks that you get them vaccinated, since they are around their cousin very often and he doesn’t want to put him at risk.
Do you get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
Kids with cancer who are getting chemotherapy become very vulnerable to most vaccine-preventable diseases, whether it is measles, flu, or chicken pox.
According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “We want to create a ‘protective cocoon’ of immunized persons surrounding patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases so that they have less chance of being exposed to a potentially serious infection like influenza.”
Would your get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
7. Outbreak of meningococcemia at your kid’s college.
Background information: Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis and sepsis (meningococcemia).
Depending on the type, it can occur either in teens and young adults (serogroups B, C, and Y) or infants (serogroup B).
Although not nearly as common as some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or pertussis, it is one of the more deadly. Meningococcemia is fatal in up to 40% of cases and up to 20% of children and teens who survive a meningococcal infection might have hearing loss, loss of one or more limbs, or neurologic damage.
Meningococcal vaccines are available (Menactra and Menveo) and routinely given to older children and teens to help prevent meningococcal infections (serogroups A, C, Y and W-135). Other vaccines, Bexasero and Trumenba, protect against serogroup B and are recommended for high risk kids and anyone else who wants to decrease their risk of getting Men B disease.
Would you encourage her to get vaccinated against meningococcemia?
8. Cochlear implants.
Your preschooler has just received cochlear implants. Should he get the Prevnar and Pneumovax vaccines?
Cochlear implants can put your child at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus).
Your child is going to have his spleen removed to prevent complications of hereditary spherocytosis. Should he get the meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines first?
Without a spleen, kids are at risk for many bacterial infections, including severe infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
In addition to their routine vaccines, kids with asplenia might need Menveo or Menactra, Bexsero or Trumenba (Men B), and Pneumovax 23.
Would your child get these vaccines that are recommended for kids with asplenia?
Ebola is returning, but this time an experimental vaccine is available.
There were nearly 30,000 cases and just over 11,000 deaths during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
You are in an area that is seeing an increasing number of Ebola cases and there is still no treatment for this deadly disease. An experimental vaccine is being offered.
Do you get the vaccine?
How Anti-Vaccine Are You?
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd – seemingly protected by all of the vaccinated people around you.
These CDC reports should even take away any last idea that they are.
If there was any association with vaccines, then why are autism rates so widely different in the 11 states that are tracked by ADDM?
Are immunization rates different in those states?
Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
Anyone who has read the latest report on autism rates understands that it “is not a representation of autism in the United States as a whole, but is instead an in-depth look at the 11 communities in the ADDM Network.”
Those communities have changed for each report, but this time they were in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Even then, the ADDM Network doesn’t look at all of the children in those states. They are mostly looking at children near large institutions that are hosts for the ADDM Network, such as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, and Rutgers University, etc.
The 325,483 8-year-olds in the latest ADDM Network report were born in 2006 and live in:
part of Maricopa County in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona
75 counties in Arkansas
Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties in Colorado
Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties in Georgia
Baltimore County, Maryland
parts of two counties (Hennepin and Ramsey) including the large metropolitan cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis, and St. Louis City counties in Missouri
Essex, Hudson, Union, and Ocean counties in New Jersey
Alamance, Chatham, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, and Wake counties in North Carolina
Bedford, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Robertson, Williamson, and Wilson counties in Tennessee
Dane, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Walworth, and Waukesha counties in Wisconsin
“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Dr. Stuart Shapira, associate director for science at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need.”
It shows that “there continue to be many children living with ASD who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.”
Immunization Rates and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network
It also helps to dispell any last ideas that vaccines are associated with autism…
Just look at the immunization rates in the ADDM Network counties (4 doses of DTaP, 3 doses of IPV, one dose of MMR, 3 doses of Hib, 3 doses of HepB, 1 dose of Varicella, 4 doses of Prevnar, flu shot, and 1 dose of HepA by age 36 months) and compare them to the autism rates in those same counties.
If vaccines were associated with autism, what should you see? Higher rates of autism in the areas with the highest immunization rates. You don’t see that in any of this data though, do you?
The counties in New Jersey, with the highest rates of autism, have good immunization rates, but they aren’t much different from the immunization rates in Colorado counties or Arizona counties with much lower autism rates.
Some other things we know about vaccines and the latest autism report?
in 2006, when those kids were born, New Jersey had one of the lowest rates for getting newborns a hepatitis B shot on their first day, as recommended, at just 23%. Arizona, with a much lower rate of autism, did much better, getting 65% of newborns their birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine on time. In fact, Maricopa County had one of the highest rates, at 71%.
fewer than half of their mothers likely received a flu shot during their pregnancy, even though they had been recommended since the 1990s
extremely few of their mothers received a Tdap vaccine during their pregnancy, as this didn’t become a routine recommendation until 2011
Does any of this surprise you?
How can vaccines be associated with autism, when counties that have higher immunization rates have lower rates of autism?
What to Know About Vaccines and the Latest Autism Prevalence Report
The latest Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network report on autism prevalence from the CDC shows a rate that has increased to 1 in 59 children. And as county level trends in vaccination coverage show no correlation to those autism prevalence rates, folks will hopefully stop trying to associate vaccines with autism.
More on Vaccines and the Latest Autism Prevalence Report
That’s why the focus on controlling pertussis outbreaks is usually looking at close contacts – those who were within about 3 feet for at least 10 hours a week or who had direct face-to-face contact with the person when they were contagious.
So when you get a letter about a possible case of pertussis in your child’s school, it may be a a general warning and not that your child is at risk.
How do you get pertussis?
“Persons with pertussis are infectious from the beginning of the catarrhal stage through the third week after the onset of paroxysms or until 5 days after the start of effective antimicrobial treatment.”
Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Spread by respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), pertussis symptoms usually start about 5 to 10 days after being exposed to someone else who is in the early stage of their pertussis infection.
While pertussis symptoms can linger for up to 10 weeks, someone who has pertussis is most contagious during the first 2 or 3 weeks of symptoms.
Is Your Child Protected Against Pertussis?
Two pertussis vaccines, DTaP and Tdap, help protect us against pertussis.
In the Unites States, they are routinely given as a primary series (DTaP) at 2, 4, and 6, and 15 to 18 months, with a booster dose at age 4 years. And then a booster of Tdap at age 11 to 12 years. Later, Tdap is given again during each pregnancy, between 27 and 36 weeks gestation. Adults who have never had a dose of Tdap should get caught up, especially if they will be around a baby.
Protection from the pertussis vaccines wanes or wears off, so even fully vaccinated children and adults can still get pertussis. Of course, you are much more likely to get pertussis if you are unvaccinated and you will likely have more severe illness if you are unvaccinated.
Postexposure Antimicrobial Prophylaxis for Pertussis
Fortunately, as with meningitis was caused by Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), taking antibiotics after being exposed to someone with pertussis can help prevent you from getting sick.
There are only specific situations for which this type of postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis is recommended though, so for example, you wouldn’t usually give everyone in a school antibiotics because a few kids had pertussis.
Why not give antibiotics to everyone who might have been exposed to someone with pertussis?
“…there are no data to indicate that widespread use of PEP among contacts effectively controls or limits the scope of pertussis outbreaks.”
Postexposure Antimicrobial Prophylaxis
In addition to the fact that it likely wouldn’t stop our pertussis outbreaks, overuse of antibiotics can have consequences.
Situations in which postexposure antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, and erythromycin, or Bactrim) likely would be a good idea include:
household contacts of a known pertussis case
to help control an outbreak in a limited closed setting, like a daycare
contacts of a pertussis cases who are at high risk for severe pertussis, including pregnant women, infants, especially infants less than 4 months old, and people with chronic medical problems
contacts of a pertussis cases who are also contacts of someone who is at high risk for severe pertussis
What if you were exposed to someone with pertussis and have already gotten sick?
If your child was exposed to pertussis and is now coughing, then in addition to antibiotics, pertussis PCR testing and/or culture will also likely be done to confirm that they have pertussis. And remember that their contacts might need postexposure antibiotics.
Kids who have been exposed to pertussis and who have been coughing for more than 3 weeks won’t need antibiotics or testing, as it is too late for the antibiotics to be helpful and likely too late for testing to be accurate. Fortunately, after 3 weeks, they should no longer be contagious.
What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Pertussis
Unvaccinated kids who are exposed to pertussis should follow the postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis guidelines.
They should also get caught up on their immunizations, including DTaP if they are between 2 months and 6 years, or Tdap if they are older.
What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Pertussis
Since protection from the pertussis vaccines wanes, even kids who are fully vaccinated should follow the postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis guidelines if they are exposed to pertussis.
Then why get vaccinated?
Again, being vaccinated, your child will be much less likely to get pertussis than someone who is unvaccinated. Even though the pertussis vaccine isn’t perfect, it has been shown that children who had never received any doses of DTaP (unvaccinated children) faced odds of having pertussis at least eight times higher than children who received all five doses.
What to Know About Getting Exposed to Pertussis
Talk to your pediatrician if your child gets exposed to pertussis to make sure he doesn’t need post-exposure prophylaxis to keep him from getting sick, even if you think he is up-to-date on his vaccines.