What is a Pertussis Vaccination?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A pertussis vaccination is an inoculation that prevents an infection called pertussis. Caused by bacteria, pertussis is a serious type of infection marked by a hacking cough. When a person has this infection, he often makes a sound described as a whoop when he inhales after coughing. This condition is highly contagious and can be spread through the droplets of an infected person’s cough or sneeze. Fortunately, however, pertussis vaccinations prevent many cases of the infection from ever developing.

The pertussis vaccination is a measure that involves boosting the body's immune response to the bacteria that cause pertussis. This infection, also referred to as whooping cough, causes a hacking cough that is accompanied by a whooping sound. Before the vaccine was available, many people died from pertussis each year.

The typical pertussis vaccination involves the administering of the vaccine, usually in combination with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, five different times. Usually, an individual receives this vaccine at two, four, and six months of age. The fourth vaccine is usually given when a person is 12 to 18 months old. A fifth vaccine is usually administered when a person is between four and six years old.


Pertussis vaccines are generally thought to be safe. This doesn’t, however, mean that the vaccine does not have any negative effects. Some of the possible side effects from this vaccine include fever and soreness at the site of the vaccination. An individual may feel cranky after a pertussis vaccine as well. Serious side effects of pertussis vaccination are rare but may include persistent crying and high fever. Rarely, an individual may even suffer seizures or a coma as a side effect of pertussis vaccination.

Unfortunately, pertussis vaccinations do not provide protection from the disease for a lifetime. Typically, doctors recommend that preteens get a booster shot in order to extend their immunity. Often, this booster is administered when the preteen is about 11 years old. Adults may receive a booster every decade. Boosters are typically administered in a combination vaccination that protects against not only pertussis, but also tetanus and diphtheria.

Thanks to the pertussis vaccination, fewer people contract this infection and suffer through its symptoms and complications. Unfortunately, however, it has not been eradicated altogether. People who do not receive the vaccine are still vulnerable to the infection. Additionally, both teens and adults who received this vaccine years ago and have not had booster shots are vulnerable to the bacteria that cause pertussis infection.


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