Old whooping cough vaccine protected better than new

An older version of the whooping cough vaccine offered better protection against the disease than the current version does, a new study from Australia suggests.

Children who received the older version of the vaccine were less likely to catch the disease before age 12, compared with those who received the newer version of the vaccine, or a combination of the two vaccines, the study found.

The study followed the children during a three-year whooping cough epidemic, which is still taking place in Australia, and nine years before the epidemic.

The work agrees with previous studies showing the protection offered by the newer whooping cough vaccine, called the acellular pertussis vaccine, wanes after a few years. (Whooping cough is also known as pertussis.)

The acellular pertussis vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1997, and Australia in 1999, after concerns that the previous vaccine, called the whole cell pertussis vaccine, caused unwanted side effects in some. These side effects included fever and swelling at the injection site. The older version was less purified, but its protection was thought to last for most of a person's life.

The challenge will be to develop a whooping cough vaccine that offers long-lasting protection from the very first dose, without adverse effects, the researchers of the new study said.


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