- Killed, no longer reproducible pathogens or
- selected components of the pathogen and/or
- neutralized toxins (toxins) from the pathogen.
The pertussis vaccine contains selected parts of the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and its toxins, which are harmless. After vaccination, the immune system recognizes the components of the vaccine as foreign and forms antibodies against them: From now on, the body is protected against infections with the bacteria.
Good to know
While live vaccines are not allowed for pregnant women for precautionary reasons, pertussis vaccination – like other vaccinations with inactivated vaccines – is also possible during pregnancy.
Individual vaccines against whooping cough are no longer available in Germany. Vaccination is therefore always carried out with a combination vaccine that protects against several diseases at the same time. Is free:
- Triple vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough
- Quadruple vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and polio (polio)
- Fivefold vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Sixfold vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b and hepatitis B
Even those who are already well protected against one or more pathogens in the combination vaccine can easily be vaccinated against whooping cough. Combination vaccinations even have advantages: they are tolerated at least as well as vaccinations with individual vaccines, but with fewer pike.
Whooping cough vaccination: how often?
Vaccination is not enough to provide the best possible protection against whooping cough. How often the vaccination must be repeated during life depends on the individual circumstances – for example on whether there are close contacts with newborns or whether the risk of infection is increased at work.
Primary immunization and boosters for all
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends basic immunization against whooping cough (with three to four vaccinations) and a total of three booster vaccinations (two in childhood and one in adulthood) for all people, regardless of individual risk factors:
- For primary immunization, children ideally receive a pertussis vaccination (usually with a hexavalent vaccine) at 2, 4 and 11 months of age.
- Premature children receive an additional vaccination at the age of 3 months to the primary immunization, i.e. a total of four vaccine doses.
- The first two booster doses are ideally given at age 5 to 6 years (usually with a quadruple vaccine) and between 9 and 16 years (usually with a quintuple vaccine).
- The third booster dose recommended in adulthood (a triple or quadruple vaccine) is given 10 years after the last vaccination against tetanus and diphtheria.
If there is no or incomplete basic immunization, or if the vaccination status is unclear, STIKO advises against acute immunization against whooping cough. Children up to 10 years of age receive three vaccinations. For everyone else, however, one dose of vaccination is enough because most have already had contact with Bordetella pertussis and were therefore able to build up a certain level of immune protection.
Additional vaccinations for certain people
In addition, STIKO recommends a single pertussis vaccination as a so-called indication vaccination for all pregnant women – regardless of how long ago their last vaccination was – as well as for people who have close contact with newborns and whose last vaccination was at least 10 years ago:
- The best time for the indication for vaccination during pregnancy is between the 28th and 32nd week of pregnancy. If there is an increased risk of premature birth, the pertussis vaccination should be brought forward to the second trimester of pregnancy.
- Women who have not received a pertussis vaccine during pregnancy should be vaccinated as soon as possible after the birth of their child.
- Close contacts of babies (such as parents, siblings, friends, daycare providers, babysitters or grandparents) are best vaccinated no later than four weeks before the birth date. If you miss this time, you should definitely catch up on the vaccination.
These indication vaccinations serve above all to protect children who cannot yet be vaccinated. For example, the pertussis vaccine given to the mother a few weeks before birth temporarily gives the baby some protection, as the mother’s antibodies against the bacterium Bordetella pertussis are transferred to the baby via the placenta: experts refer to this as nest protection.
On the other hand, occupational vaccinations against whooping cough aim to protect both the vaccinated themselves and their contacts. STIKO recommends these additional vaccinations for all persons working in the healthcare system and in community facilities at least ten years apart.
Whooping cough vaccination: Why the booster?
Some vaccinations – especially those with live vaccines – do not require boosters: for example, those who have received the basic vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) are usually well protected for life. It is different with the pertussis vaccination: without a booster, the immune protection achieved through the inactivated vaccine is lost over time.
Anyone who has been infected with the bacterium Bordetella pertussis is also only temporarily immune to whooping cough for about 10 to 20 years. A booster is therefore also useful after an illness: It strengthens the immune reaction, which diminishes over time, which is why it is also called a booster vaccination.