Whooping cough outbreaks on the rise, new vaccine could be to blame

BOSTON — Doctors are concerned whooping cough outbreaks are on the rise.

Just a few weeks ago, Norwell Public Schools warned parents to watch for signs of the illness after three cases were reported there.

Now, research shows the new vaccine given to kids could be to blame for the spike in the sickness.

Whooping cough symptoms can be hacking coughs, fever, and congestion. They may seem like the common cold, but they can be something much more serious.

“Whooping cough can be fatal. It can just be a horrible illness, especially for newborns and young babies. This is something we want to prevent, this is important. This is not your average cold,” Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital said.

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that the very thing meant to protect children may not provide long-lasting safeguards. The T-DAP booster given to young adolescents is only moderately effective for about a year and provided very little immunity after two or three years.

“In the 25 years I have been a pediatrician, we’re certainly seeing a lot more of it now than we used to and that’s because of the vaccine,” McCarthy told FOX25.

McCarthy says the previous whooping cough worked better, but had more side effects.

“Kids were more likely to get high fevers, and sometimes it could be associated with seizures. This worried people appropriately so they made a different vaccine, which doesn’t have the side effects, but also doesn’t protect as well. So now we are seeing outbreaks,” McCarthy said.

Whooping cough cases are rising quickly around the country. The CDC recorded more than 48,000 cases and 20 deaths in 2012 – the most since 1955.

FOX25 has learned whooping cough cases in Massachusetts are growing in children under 4 and adults over the age of 65. Both saw an increase from 2015 compared to 2014.

“It’s a reminder that immunization isn’t just about you and your kid. It’s really important to remember that immunization protects everybody around you,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy says just because the vaccine isn’t as effective, shouldn’t mean you don’t get one. FOX25 asked parents if this study would make them reconsider whooping cough vaccines for their kids and got mixed reactions.

“Probably I would not get the vaccine if it were proven to be less effective, and the fact that it wears off,” one parent told FOX25.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines, but I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to have their kids vaccinated and to protect those who are more vulnerable,” another parent said.

McCarthy stresses the whooping cough vaccine works and the best way to prevent it is vaccination.

Medical researchers are working on vaccines that are more effective.