This year has been a bad one for whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) throughout the world. There have been large outbreaks of pertussis in the United States, England and Australia in 2012. There have been some hypotheses as to why it has been happening. For example, there is some speculation that a subtype (or genotype) of pertussis was responsible for the Australian outbreak, but the evidence is complicated and equivocal. I think there is some evidence that the epidemic in Washington state results from the much lower vaccination rates in the area as a result of the anti-vaccination lunacy.
But the story may be much more complicated, and may need a more open discussion amongst those responsible for protecting us from these infectious diseases. These pertussis outbreaks may be a result of the reduced performance of the pertussis vaccine currently being used. The problem with an open discussion regarding the current vaccine is that the vaccine denialists will make an absolute claim that the pertussis vaccine does not work (of course, a complete fabrication, typical of the anti-vaxxers), instead of the more accurate position that the pertussis vaccine might not have the high level of effectiveness that was originally thought. Ironically, the current vaccine, the acellular pertussis version, replaced the older and more effective whole pertussis vaccine because critics believed the older version had too many side effects. Continue reading “Whooping cough–effectiveness of pertussis vaccines”