updated 6/2/2005 5:55:36 PM ET 2005-06-02T21:55:36

An experimental booster shot designed to protect adults and adolescents from whooping cough proved safe and effective in a study released Thursday, offering a vital new tool for fighting a dangerous resurgence of the disease over the past few years.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

The vaccine, developed by Sanofi Pasteur and already widely given to teenagers in Canada, appears likely to win U.S. government approval later this month.

The vaccine is needed “to prevent the disease in teenagers and adults themselves and, secondly, take away their ability to be contagious,” said Dr. Michael E. Pichichero, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has headed clinical trials into the vaccine since 2001. “We’re trying to stop an epidemic.”

Rising cases of whooping cough
Cases of whooping cough, an ancient scourge that effective vaccination of babies and toddlers was meant to wipe out, have quadrupled in the United States over the past three years to 18,957 cases in 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It turns out the vaccine that babies get starts wearing off by adolescence.

A month ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of GlaxoSmithKline’s Boostrix as a one-time booster dose of vaccine for people between ages 10 and 18. Its rival Sanofi Pasteur is now awaiting FDA approval of its own whooping cough booster, called Adacel, for those ages 11 and up.

“We believe the vaccine has far-reaching implications for public health,” Pichichero said.

The study was released early by the Journal of the American Medical Association, ahead of its scheduled publication in the June 22-29 issue, because the results were considered so important.

The study indicated that the booster shot should be at least 83 percent effective at preventing severe illness in adults and adolescents, though no one yet knows how long the renewed immunity will last, Pichichero. The most common side effects were redness, swelling and pain at the injection site.

'A wall of protection'
Whooping cough, or pertussis, gets its name from the barking cough it often causes. While older patients usually recover, they can easily spread the germ to not-yet-vaccinated infants, in whom the disease can be deadly. Dozens of babies die of whooping cough in the United States each year.

Immunizing adolescents and adults “is providing a wall of protection, if you will, around those very vulnerable infants, many of whom are still too young to have received their baby shots,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, a vaccine specialist for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

The vaccine, if approved, will not require an extra shot. It will instead be added to the existing shot that children are supposed to get between ages 10 and 18 to protect against two other diseases — tetanus and diphtheria.

A CDC advisory committee is expected to decide at a meeting June 29 whether the vaccine should be routinely offered as part of mass immunization programs.

Adults could be asked to roll up their sleeves as early as July, and day care providers, health care workers and parents of infants would probably be targeted first, said Pichichero, whose study was funded by the vaccine maker.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments