Vaccinating for whooping cough -- pros and cons

by Mollee Bauer

Whooping Cough VaccineThere are always going to be questions, debates and decisions surrounding vaccinations.

Confusion and concerns abound for parents all over the country. While this applies to all vaccines, we thought we'd help bring you the pros and cons of a specific vaccine -- whooping cough.

There's been some recent news regarding some of the serious consequences of the whooping cough vaccine. So much so, it's led to a worldwide controversy on its "benefits versus its risks" standing.

What are the risks and benefits?

It's being said that the risk of immunizations that contain the pertussis vaccine are much greater than in any other vaccine available today. This vaccine is usually given as part of the immunization shot containing diphtheria and tetanus, also known as DTP.

On the flip side, proponents of the whooping cough vaccine state that the results they've seen, even when given to "high-risk" children (defined as those who had seizures or family history of seizures) are less than the bad consequences that come from contracting pertussis.

The serious side effects that show in one out of 7000 vaccine doses administered are a high fever (over 103 degrees F, convulsions, irritability, deep lethargy or shock, which is characterized by difficult breathing, paleness, and a lack of response to stimuli. Permanent brain damage occurs in one out of every 310,000 children vaccinated. Death is an even rarer possibility.

Before the vaccine was developed in the 1940s, many deaths were attributed to pertussis. Even today, brain damage and seizures take place when children have a pertussis episode. A study revealed that one out of every 4,000 pertussis victims suffers brain damage. To compare, only one out of every 100,000 doses of DTP produces similar problems. Seizures occur in one out of every 225 pertussis victims, yet one out of every 950 DTP doses may provoke such seizures in a child

Another caveat in the controversy over the vaccine is at the age the baby receives the series of whooping cough shots is also the same time when an underlying neurological disorder tends to appear for the first time. Researches are now trying to predict which children will suffer neurological damage from the vaccine.

There is testing going on in Japan and the United Kingdom both of whom slanted more toward non immunization trends because of the controversy. They have concluded that more testing and results are needed before making any final decisions.

So what is a parent to do? Weigh the pros and cons of the DTP and figure out what you think is best for your kids.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.