A new study of the safety of the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine supports the recommendation that those 65 and older get the vaccine to protect themselves and others, particularly young babies, from pertussis. Published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the findings come as reported U.S. cases of the bacterial infection, also known as whopping cough, are at the highest level since the 1950s.
An extremely contagious respiratory illness, pertussis puts infants at greatest risk for severe complications, including death. More than half of infants younger than 1 year old who get pertussis are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 1 or 2 in 100 hospitalized infants die. Immunity is difficult to maintain in the community because infants cannot be vaccinated until they are 2 months old. As a result, they may be at risk, especially from family members and care givers who have the disease.
In their study, Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, MPH, and his team at Kaiser Permanente Southern California found that adverse events following Tdap vaccination in seniors were mostly minor. "Although there is a small increased risk of injection site reaction following Tdap vaccination in the elderly, it is no more common than that following the traditional tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine," Dr. Tseng said.
The researchers' study included 119,573 seniors who received the Tdap vaccine and the same number of people who received the traditional Td vaccine. Safety data were collected from seven health maintenance organizations across the U.S. The risk for adverse events following vaccination was comparable among both groups.