Per Wikipedia:  “Whooping cough (also known as pertussis or 100-day cough) is a highly contagious bacterial disease. Initially, symptoms are usually similar to those of the common cold with a runny nose, fever, and mild cough. This is followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. Following a fit of coughing, a high-pitched whoop sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes in. The coughing may last for 10 or more weeks, hence the phrase “100-day cough”. A person may cough so hard that they vomit, break ribs, or become very tired from the effort. Children less than one year old may have little or no cough and instead have periods where they do not breathe. The time between infection and the onset of symptoms is usually seven to ten days. Disease may occur in those who have been vaccinated, but symptoms are typically milder.

“Pertussis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is an airborne disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. People are infectious from the start of symptoms until about three weeks into the coughing fits. Those treated with antibiotics are no longer infectious after five days. Diagnosis is by collecting a sample from the back of the nose and throat. This sample can then be tested by either culture or by polymerase chain reaction.”

Vaccination against pertussis does not confer lifeline immunity.  A CDC study has shown that protection lasts between 3-6 years, while other studies have shown some degree of protection for up to 12.  The acellular pertussis vaccine has an effectiveness rate of 71-85%, though it is not intended to prevent infection or transmission of pertussis to others:  studies have demonstrated that vaccinated individuals can become reinfected with pertussis numerous times and serve as reservoirs to spread the infection to others.  The pertussis vaccine, like diphtheria and tetanus, only serves to lessen the severity of symptoms upon infection.

High vaccination rates in the US has led to the spread of parapertussis due to lack of competition from pertussis.  The vaccine for pertussis does not protect from parapertussis.

In the US, since 2010 there are between 15,000 and 50,000 reported cases of pertussis or parapertussis annually, a rise from approximately 10,000 cases per year in the 1990s.  Since 2010, there are up to 20 deaths from pertussis annually, with the overwhelming majority of fatalities occurring in infants under one year of age.

Vaccine Statistics

When debating informed consent, it is important that people calculate the risk versus the reward for all options.  Here are some facts, according to VAERS and the CDC.

  • Since 2000, there have been an average of 20 deaths annually from pertussis in the US.
  • Since 2000, there have been at least 1,108 deaths reported to VAERS associated with the pertussis vaccine.
  • Since 2000, there have been 100,771 adverse events reported to VAERS, with the vast majority of them falling between the ages of 0-5 years.

Since 2000, there have been an average of 62 deaths reported to VAERS associated with the pertussis vaccine, over triple the death rate of the disease the vaccine is designed to prevent.  Since 2000, there have been an average of 3.8 million live births in the US annually.  With 92% vaccination rates across the country, this equates to approximately 3.5 million children being vaccinated per year, and 5 doses per “full vaccination”, leaving the odds of death at approximately 1 in 285,000 from receiving each dose of the pertussis vaccine, or 1 in 57,000 from the entire series.  In contrast, given CDC statistics, a child has a 1 in 6,400 chance of contracting pertussis/parapertussis and a 1 in 190,000 chance of dying from the disease.  Given these statistics, there is greater risk of death from the full vaccination series than the disease the vaccine is designed to protect against.   

If the FDA’s assessment of reporting compliance is correct (<1%), however, the risk of death from the pertussis vaccine may be as high as 1 in 2850 per dose, and 1 in 570 from the entire series.  The problem with this calculation, however, is that we simply do not know the true number of deaths attributable to the pertussis vaccine due to our faulty reporting system.  Other statistics (based on estimated numbers of doses administered per the above calculation) reported since 2000 (rate reported/rate possible per FDA) per dose:

  • 1694 immediately life threatening complications (1 in 185,000/1 in 1850)
  • 1107 permanent disabilities (1 in 285,000/1 in 2850)
  • 7064 hospitalizations or extensions of hospitalization (1 in 45,000/1 in 450)
  • 36,140 emergency room or office visits related to complications (1 in 8700/1 in 87)

Some of the possible rates per the FDA are too chilling to want to believe, and to be perfectly honest, we are skeptical of them.  This is the greatest problem with estimating risk versus reward when real numbers are deliberately obscured.

In only one area does the reward from the vaccine outweigh the risk.  The risk of an individual infant (<1 year of age) being hospitalized for pertussis each year is approximately 1 in 12,800, whereas for the doses of DTaP they would receive during that same year, their risk of hospitalization is 1 in 15,000.

Vaccine Safety

Vaccine Typepeptide antigen/partially immune

Pregnancy ClassC (TDaP)

This section will reference the product insert for  TDaP as provided by the FDA.  The TDaP vaccine uses high levels of aluminum adjuvants.

Contraindications (do not vaccinate):

  • Allergy to any acellular pertussis vaccine, or included component such as latex
  • Encephalopathy within 7 days of administration
  • Progressive or unstable neurological conditions
  • Immunosuppressed (such as with steroids) or immunocompromised individuals

Adverse Reactions (as reported by the manufacturer):

  • Injection site pain/swelling/erythema/bruising/abscess, fever, headache, body ache, muscle weakness, tiredness, chills, sore and swollen joints, nausea, lymphadenopathy, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, malaise, myalgia, anaphylaxis, angioedema, edema, hypotension, paresthesia, hypoesthesia, Guillain-Barré syndrome, brachial neuritis, facial palsy, convulsion, syncope, myelitis, myocarditis, pruritus, urticaria, myositis, muscle spasm, Arthus hypersensitivity, miscarriage (incidence rate increase of 200-500% according to statistics included in clinical testing information in the insert compared to national statistics provided by the March of Dimes), death.


Editor’s Opinion

Pertussis is a frightening, miserable, and potentially deadly disease to contract, particularly for infants under one year of age.  It is most easily avoided through sanitation and not exposing infants under one year of age to potentially infected individuals.  Since immunized individuals are potential carriers of pertussis even though they exhibit no signs of the disease, this makes limiting exposure difficult.  Indeed, your pediatrician may be the most likely vector of transmission if they have recently encountered another child with pertussis!  Still, given that the risks from the vaccine outweigh the risk from the disease, we do not recommend its administration, and recommend instead that parents use good judgement and avoid taking their infants to places that may increase their risk of being exposed to the disease.