Doctors Say: Get a Tdap Shot

By Doing So, You Shield Yourself, Maybe Even Save a Life 

For Immediate Release 
March 17, 2011


Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320

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If you hear lots of coughing around you, it might be more serious than just a cough.  

Whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks are on the rise. To help protect both adults and infants from this disease, Texas Medical Association (TMA) physician leaders urge adult patients to get vaccinated. Instead of getting just a tetanus vaccine, adults should consider getting the combined tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. And now adults over age 65 who care for an infant or plan to be around one should get the Tdap shot too. 

This updates official recommendations by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to keep communities healthy and free of preventable diseases. TMA's Be Wise - ImmunizeSM program has worked for years to educate patients about the importance of getting the pertussis vaccine and other immunizations.

Pertussis is commonly called whooping cough because of the distinctive “whoop” sound an infected patient makes when he or she gasps for air between coughs.  

“Whooping cough is quite dangerous for infants,” says Donald Murphey, MD, member of TMA’s Committee on Infectious Diseases. Close to 17,000 people suffered from whooping cough in 2009, and 12 infants died from the disease. A recent serious pertussis outbreak struck Williamson County in central Texas, where more than 18 times the state average number of residents contracted the illness. 

Adults, get the shot: By doing so, you might protect a baby. 

Adults who contract whooping cough typically have milder cases. Therefore, they might not consider getting a pertussis shot. But if they do, the shot protects them, and more importantly, prevents them from spreading whooping cough to relatively defenseless babies. “Some of the infants who catch pertussis end up getting very sick and needing respirators and intensive care. Some infants even die,” says Dr. Murphey. Babies can’t receive their first pertussis vaccine until 2 months of age, and they aren’t fully protected until they receive multiple doses, usually when they are 15 to 18 months old. That’s why it is important for adults who plan to be around an infant to get the Tdap vaccination, so they don’t pass the disease along to the unprotected infant. “We can’t get rid of the worse disease in the young without controlling the very mild infection in adults, so adults should get vaccinated,” explains Dr. Murphey.  

Don’t just get a tetanus shot, get Tdap instead.  

“If my patients need a tetanus vaccine I recommend they get the Tdap shot for added protection instead,” says Juan Fitz, MD, an emergency physician in Lubbock and chair of TMA’s Committee on EMS and Trauma. 

Who should get Tdap vaccine? 

The Tdap vaccine is available and recommended for all adolescents and adults, especially: 

  • Women who have just had a baby, if they have not received Tdap in the past; 
  • Anyone who has close contact with an infant less than 12 months of age, including parents, siblings, grandparents, other family members, child care providers, and health care workers – including those over 65 years of age; 
  • Students entering the seventh grade;  
  • Undervaccinated children aged 7 through 10 years; and 
  • Adults, regardless of interval since they received their last tetanus or diphtheria-toxoid containing vaccine. 

See TMA’s information on pertussis.  

“Pertussis is increasing, yet it’s preventable. We need to stop its spread,” adds Dr. Murphey. He urges patients to talk to their physician about getting the Tdap vaccine and to learn more about it. “The only way to stop its growth is for adults to get Tdap vaccine. Get the shot and shield yourself from getting sick, and maybe protect an infant from a much worse fate.” 

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 45,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA's key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the association and raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the family of medicine.

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Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.