updated 3/15/2005 6:57:13 PM ET 2005-03-15T23:57:13

Hoping to halt the rising number of whooping cough cases in the United States, a federal advisory panel on Tuesday recommended approval of two new booster vaccines.

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The Food and Drug Administration committee unanimously recommended approval for Boostrix, a single-dose vaccine against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria designed for people age 10 to 16. It is made by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.

The committee also unanimously recommended approval for Adacel, from Sanofi Pasteur, intended to protect both adolescents and adults — people age 11 to 64 — from the same three diseases.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees, but generally does so.

Protection fades over time
Youngsters have been vaccinated against whooping cough since the 1940s, but doctors have begun to realize that the protection fades over time.

“In 1976 there were 1,000 cases of whooping cough in the United States, now there are 20,000,” Dr. Colin Marchant of Boston University explained in a telephone interview.

The last dose of the vaccine for infants is given before age 7 and over the next 10 to 15 years it wears off, Marchant said.

It’s a nasty, coughing disease, and nearly half of the cases are in adolescents, he said. It can lead to vomiting, weight loss and sleep disturbance over a prolonged time, Marchant said. And adolescents can easily spread the illness to others, he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received 18,957 reports of whooping cough last year, up from 11,647 in 2003 and just 1,707 in 1980.

The new vaccines are made in a combination with tetanus and diphtheria because public health authorities already recommend an adolescent booster for those illnesses. If the new vaccines win approval all three could be done at once.

Booster vaccines for whooping cough are currently available in Canada, Germany, France and Australia.

Whooping cough is also known as pertussis. It’s a bacterial illness with coldlike symptoms and a hacking cough that can include 15 to 20 coughs in a row, leaving a patient gasping for air — sometimes, though not always, with a high-pitched “whoop.”

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