Pertussis (whooping cough)

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About the vaccine

The pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine protects against a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria. Pertussis can cause pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage or death. 

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get pertussis.

Who should get the vaccine?

The pertussis vaccine is provided free in BC to infants and children as part of their routine immunizations.  It is also provided free to adults who have not been immunized against pertussis or whose immunization history is unknown. A booster dose of the pertussis vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in BC.

The pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines so a person can receive protection from several diseases with one shot.  Several different vaccines are used to prevent pertussis among infants, children, adolescents and adults:

*Click on the link for more information about the vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine.

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine: This vaccine is given as a series of 3 doses to infants at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) Vaccine: Infants receive this vaccine as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a 3 dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio (DTaP-IPV) Vaccine: This vaccine is given as a single dose to kindergarten-age children starting at age 4. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against these diseases at a younger age.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine: This vaccine is given to all students in grade 9. This is a booster dose for children immunized against these diseases at a younger age. This vaccine is also given to adults.

Vaccines are available from public health units, doctors' offices and pharmacies (for people 5 years of age and older).  Anyone who is not eligible for a free pertussis vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.  Services vary across BC. 

About the disease

What does pertussis (whooping cough) sound like?

This site can tell you.

  • Pertussis (whooping cough) is a respiratory infection that is caused by a bacteria (germ) found in the throat
  • The germ is spread by coughing and sneezing
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) starts like a common cold, with sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. But over the next week or 2 the cough gets worse and worse, leading to really bad coughing spells that often end with a whoop (which is where the name whooping cough came from).
  • Risk of convulsions or seizures: (1 out of 30 cases);
  • Risk of encephalopathy (brain damage): (1 out of 100 cases)
  • About 1 infant out of every 170 who gets pertussis (whooping cough) will die from it. Most deaths (4 out of 5) are babies under a year old

There is less pertussis (whooping cough) disease in BC because of routine childhood vaccination programs

For more information about the disease and the vaccine, go to the Pertussis (Whooping Cough) (15c) HealthLink BC File

Hear what a pertussis cough sounds like

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More vaccine preventable disease images