October 27, 2010 / 10:32 PM / 9 years ago

Vaccine panel expands whooping cough coverage

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An independent U.S. advisory panel is amending its recommendations for booster vaccines to prevent whooping cough and expand protection from the disease that has made a comeback in several U.S. states.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on Wednesday to allow adolescents or adults whose vaccine history is not known to get a booster shot of the “Tdap” vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough, as soon as possible.

The committee, whose advice is usually followed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also recommended that adults over 65 be given the vaccine to help prevent transmission to infants under a year old, who are too young to be vaccinated.

Children aged 7 to 9 who have not been adequately vaccinated should be given the Tdap booster, it added.

Tdap vaccines, made by both Sanofi Aventis and GlaxoSmithKline, protect adolescents and adults from three once-common killers — whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

But they are not approved for children aged 7 to 10 or people aged 65 and older. Two- to 6-year-olds get a different vaccine, called DTaP, for the same three infections.

Tom Clark, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a telephone interview the moves were intended to “close some gaps in our vaccination program.”

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Public health officials from California told the panel that to date, the state has had 10 infants under 2 months die from whooping cough. CDC researchers told the panel 6 to 8 percent of whooping cough cases are transmitted from grandparents to children.

“We’ve definitely heard from grandparents who are told if they are 65, they can’t get a Tdap vaccine to protect their grandbabies. Now they can,” Clark said.

Representatives from both GSK and Sanofi told the panel they intend to seek approvals for their vaccines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Until then, doctors can give the vaccine on an off-label basis, Clark said.

Editing by Richard Chang

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