Change in vaccine timing can cure lethal infant disease

November 3rd, 2008 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 3 (IANS) A step as simple as administering vaccine two weeks before it is scheduled protects infants from a common, highly contagious and even deadly disease known as pertussis. Pertussis is marked by severe coughing and infects young infants. They are at the highest risk for pertussis-related complications, including pneumonia, seizures, brain swelling and even death.

The shift in timing has the potential to avert 1,236 cases of pertussis, 898 hospitalisations and seven deaths attributable to pertussis each year in the US alone, said Timothy R. Peters, study co-author and assistant professor of paediatrics at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest University.

“Rates of pertussis, which can be life-threatening in young infants, are increasing,” Peters said. “Pertussis vaccine has been highly effective in defending children against this disease, and we find that modest adjustments in the timing of vaccine administration may offer enhanced protection to very young infants who are especially susceptible to severe disease.”

Among infants in US, the incidence of pertussis peaks at one month of age and progressively decreases over the next year. While there is no lifelong protection against whooping cough, immunisation is the best preventative measure, according to a Wake Forest press release.

Current recommendations suggest five doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine at two, four and six months, with booster doses at 15 to 18 months and four to six years.

Current recommendations also allow for administration of the first dose as early as six weeks of age, with the second and third doses at 3.5 months and 5.5 months.

The 2004 National Immunisation Survey estimated that only 88 percent of infants had received one dose of DTaP vaccine by three months, 76 percent of infants had received two doses of DTaP vaccine by five months of age, and a mere 66 percent of infants had received the first three vital doses of DTaP vaccine by seven months.

The study appears in the November issue of Paediatrics.

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