Weighing the Worth of Whooping Cough Vaccine

Study examines benefits, risks and costs of vaccination among teens

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MONDAY, May 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Vaccinating teenagers against whooping cough may be cost-effective in certain circumstances, says a study meant to help U.S. health officials evaluate the potential benefits, risks and costs of a national booster vaccination program.

Whooping cough vaccinations in the United States began in the mid-1940s and led to steep reduction in the prevalence of whooping cough over the ensuing 25 years. But over the past two decades, immunity to whooping cough has waned and this serious illness has re-emerged in the United States.

Adolescents and adults in Canada can now get a combined acellular pertussis vaccine (TdaP), which has fewer side effects than previous vaccines. This new vaccine may be considered for use in the United States.

"In the past, vaccination programs were cost-saving and lifesaving. However, newer vaccines are now focused on reducing morbidity, rather than mortality, and we need to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination. By examining medical and non-medical costs as well as quality-of-life issues, we can determine the optimal strategy," study author Dr. Grace Lee, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Boston and the Center for Child Health Care Studies at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, said in a prepared statement.

After reviewing the data, she and her colleagues concluded that all whooping cough vaccination strategies were more costly and less effective compared to no vaccination. They did find that an adolescent booster strategy against whooping cough may be effective under certain circumstances defined by cost, vaccine efficacy and disease incidence.

The study was presented over the weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about whooping cough.

SOURCE: Pediatric Academic Societies, news release, May 1, 2004

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