Okay, a lot of people have been asking me since I posted a little ditty about having whooping cough, the common name for pertussis: Was I vaccinated? Others have accused me of being part of the problem: If I knew the vaccine wore off, why didn't I get a booster?
I was, in fact, vaccinated against pertussis and all those other childhood illnesses on schedule. The problem, in part, is that the protection offered by the pertussis vaccine wears off by the time you reach adulthood. Until recently, however, this was not a problem. Back in those halcyon days when we vaccinated our children, the disease was not bouncing around our population and so it was okay that adults did not get re-immunized. (That's the whole point of herd immunity: it's hard to get sick from people who aren't sick.) In fact, according to the CDC, only around eight percent of the U.S. adult population got pertussis boosters and yet no outbreak. There is no reason, in other words, to vaccinate for something that doesn't exist. We don't, for example, vaccinate against smallpox anymore—though at this rate, you Park Slopers will put that back on the agenda, too.
This, in other words, is a new phenomenon, one for which the CDC has not yet prepared a full and comprehensive response. In the gap years, some babies will die and some grown women will write internet posts about their cough-induced incontinence.
Furthermore, the pertussis vaccine for adults was not even licensed until 2005. Before now, the CDC used to recommend that adults 19 and older get a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Let me repeat: a Td, not a TDaP, which includes the pertussis vaccine. Here are their recommendations:
Age 19 years and older
All adults should get a booster dose of Td every 10 years.
Adults under 65 who have never gotten Tdap should get a dose of Tdap as their next booster dose. Adults 65 and older may get one booster dose of Tdap.
Adults (including women who may become pregnant and adults 65 and older) who expect to have close contact with a baby younger than 12 months of age should get a dose of Tdap to help protect the baby from pertussis.
Healthcare professionals who have direct patient contact in hospitals or clinics should get one dose of Tdap.
Below, a helpful infographic, put together by the wonderful Jen Kirby, that shows just how rich your irresponsible harvest is.