This article is from the Childhood Vaccinations FAQ, by Lynn Gazis-Sax firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
This vaccine is one that many parents worry about giving their
children. They do so for good reason. There is a lot of information
out saying that the vaccine could cause problems with their child's
health. Who wouldn't worry!
Unfortunately, the possibility of getting the illness and problems from the
illness does not seem to be publicized as much as the potential
complications from the vaccine are. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is still
present today and can easily be transmitted. The last booster for the
illness is given around 4-6 years, after that the illness isn't severe, so
boosters aren't given. Adults can have the disease and just think they
have a bad cold. It's a completely different story for infants.
Friends of ours came down with colds and a bad cough. They continued
their normal routine. Their 3 month old daughter also came down with
the "cold". The disease reached the pertussis stage while the mother
and child were thousands of miles from home. The baby had horrible
coughing spells, projectile vomiting and apnea attacks after the
coughing. She was hospitalized for 3 weeks, with 8 days of that in
ICU due to whooping cough (or pertussis).
Our 3 month old child and several other infants that age had all been
exposed to the disease at a play group. The infants received their
second vaccination early and were put on erythromycin for 10 days as a
precaution. That stuff is wicked for young children. After one day,
our daughter started screaming at the sight of the antibiotic bottle.
It took two of us to get the medicine down her and we were fortunate
that she only needed two doses a day. The only thing that gave us the
strength to force her to take the medicine was the knowledge that our
friends' child was so ill many miles away.
During this time, we learned that whooping cough is still quite active
in the United States. Countries that don't vaccinate against it have
children dying from the disease each year (I don't have the numbers
any more.) The immunization isn't complete until after the 3rd shot
at six months. Even then, there is a small chance they could come
down with the disease. The only other case of pertussis that our
pediatrician had seen at the time was from a child who had been vac
cinated, but still came down with the disease.