Minn. health dept. shifts whooping cough strategy

Whooping cough
Pharmacist Kristy Hennessee administers a vaccination against whooping cough in a file photo.

Minnesota doctors are no longer being urged to give 10-year-olds a booster vaccine for whooping cough as reports of the disease decline.

Minnesota Department of Health officials promoted the earlier vaccination strategy last year during an unprecedented state outbreak of whooping cough, known as pertussis. Typically, adolescents receive a booster dose between ages 11 and 12.

Pertussis is still causing a lot of illness in Minnesota, but the case count is much lower so the strategy for controlling the disease has changed, epidemiologist Claudia Miller said.

More than 850 whooping cough cases have been reported in Minnesota this year, compared to more than 4,600 confirmed, probable and suspected cases in 2012.

"Our current approach is to try to focus on where pertussis is the most concerning," Miller said. The department now is promoting a new national strategy to vaccinate women with each pregnancy to protect babies who are the most vulnerable to the disease's severe complications, she added.

Protection from the pertussis booster vaccine wears off within a few years. Returning to the regular vaccine schedule means kids will have protection against the disease for more of their teenage years, Miller said.

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