Pertussis (whooping cough)
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What is the pertussis vaccine?
The pertussis vaccine protects against pertussis (also known as whooping cough), a serious infection of the airways caused by the pertussis bacteria.
The pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines so that you or your child can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots.
Who should get the pertussis vaccine?
The pertussis vaccine is recommended for infants, young children, school-age children, and adults. It is recommended that all pregnant people get a pertussis vaccine in every pregnancy. There are many different combination vaccines used to prevent pertussis.
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.
- This vaccine is given to infants as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a three-dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib.
- This vaccine is given as one dose to children 4-6 years of age. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio at a younger age. The booster dose strengthens or boosts the immune system to give better protection against these diseases.
- This vaccine is offered to all students in Grade 9. This is a booster dose for children immunized against these diseases at a younger age.
- The Tdap vaccine can also be given to children 7 years of age and older who have not been fully immunized, and to adults or immigrants who have not been immunized or whose immunization history is unknown.
- People born in 1989 or later who missed their adolescent dose of Tdap are eligible for one free dose of this vaccine.
- A booster dose of the Tdap vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in B.C.
- Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all pregnant people get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in every pregnancy to help protect the baby after birth. Learn more about the Tdap vaccine and pregnancy in our pregnancy section.
What are the benefits of getting the pertussis vaccine?
The vaccine is the best way to protect against pertussis, a serious and sometimes fatal disease. When you or your child get vaccinated, you help protect others as well.
What are the side effects?
Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than it is to get pertussis.
Many people have no side effects from these vaccines. For those that do, side effects are usually mild and last 1 to 2 days (see a list of common side effects for each vaccine below). Serious side effects are extremely rare.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare possibility, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever or experience crankiness, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, persistent crying, or a loss of appetite. These reactions are mild and usually last 1 to 2 days.
Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever, or experience crankiness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.
Common side effects may include may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, chills, headache, and fatigue may also occur. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.
Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given. Headache, fatigue, muscle or joint soreness, and mild fever may also occur.
Where can I learn more?
- Click on the vaccine name above to read the HealthLink BC File.
- Talk to your immunizing health care provider.
- Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria.
- The bacteria are easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact.
- Pertussis starts like a common cold with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, mild fever, and a mild cough. Over the next two weeks, the cough gets worse, leading to severe, repeated, and forceful coughing spells that often end with a whooping sound before the next breath.
- The cough of pertussis can last several months and occurs more often at night.
- The cough can make a person gag or spit out mucus and make it hard to take a breath.
- In babies, pertussis can cause periods of apnea in which their breathing is interrupted.
- Pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, or death. These complications are seen most often in infants.
About 1 in 170 infants who get pertussis may die.