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    Childhood Illnesses Up Close: Pertussis

    June 30, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    On Tuesday, some new research was released concerning vaccines. In comparing 9,000 boys ages 4-17, a study commissioned by Generation Rescue discovered that vaccinated boys are 158% more likely to have a neurological disorder, 317% more likely to have ADHD, and 112% more likely to have autism than boys who were not vaccinated at all.

    I don’t want to debate if these numbers are accurate or not. What I want to do is begin a series that considers the trade-off. Just consider that it’s true, that vaccines do cause these problems. I know that many pediatricians act as if parents are endangering their children’s lives if they refuse all or some of the routine vaccinations. So what is the trade-off? And is it reasonable? After all, isn’t it better to have my son contract ADHD from a vaccine than to die from a childhood illness?

    Or are we trading short-term childhood illnesses that are relatively benign for long-term illnesses that threaten our children’s ability to grow into fully functioning adults? I think this bears exploring.

    So today I will start with pertussis. What is pertussis? How does a child contract it? How does a child get better? Is it dangerous? I didn’t know the answers to these questions until today. This is an education for me and any readers as ignorant as I am.

    So let’s begin.

    What is pertussis?
    Pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough. This is a bacterial repiratory infection that causes a very distinct whooping sound after a long period of coughing. Apparently, the coughing continues for such a length of time that there is a literal gasping–or whooping–for breath that occurs. Pertussis is contagious in the Usual Way. If you come in direct contact with the discharge from an infected person’s nose or throat, or if you inhale droplets that were expelled by an infected person during a coughing fit, you might contract pertussis. This illness lasts quite a long time, about twenty-one days. The infection initially manifests itself as a common cold, only to worsen into the coughing fits after about two weeks of symptoms like fever, runny nose, etc.

    Is pertussis treatable?
    How does an infected person get better? Many people get better on their own, without any intervention, but the weaker the general immune system of the person, the more likely they will have complications from pertussis. In the event that the infection is more than a person can handle,

    Erythromycin, clarithromycin {Biaxin}, and azithromycin {Zithromax} are preferred for the treatment of pertussis in persons one month and older. In those younger than one month, the use of erythromycin and clarithromycin is not recommended, and azithromycin is preferred. For patients two months and older, an alternative agent, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole {Bactrim, Septra}, is available. {source}

    As long as the patient is not allergice to these antibiotics, the patient should respond well to using them to combat pertussis.

    What are the possible side-effects of the vaccine?
    The pertussis vaccine {which is not available in isolated form, so really it is the diptheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine} has side-effects {please note that this is referring to the acellular pertussis vaccine, which is much safer than the traditional vaccine}:

    Local adverse reactions, which include pain, erythema, swelling, and systemic reactions such as fever, anorexia, vomiting, drowsiness and fussiness may have occurred following any of the three primary vaccinations.


    Adverse events {rates per 1,000 doses} occurring within 7 days following vaccination with Tripedia vaccine included: unusual cry {0.96}, persistent cry > 3 hours {0.12}, febrile seizure {0.05}, afebrile seizure {0.02} and hypotonic/hyporesponsive episodes {0.05}.

    In the Swedish efficacy trial where 1,419 recipients received the pertussis components in Tripedia vaccine, three deaths due to invasive bacterial infections occurred.


    Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies or to establish a causal relationship to components of Tripedia vaccine. {source}

    Is the trade-off worth it?
    Here’s where I offer my opinion. The list of possible side-effects is a bit frightening. I am a mother whose firstborn son had a fever of 104 degrees with every immunization, and let me tell you that every reaction is very scary. If my son had contracted pertussis, he would have been offered antibiotics. With a reaction, we held him for hours at a time and hoped that things got better.

    Let me boil that one down a bit: there is treatment, effective treatment, available for pertussis. There is no treatment {that I know of} for a reaction to the pertussis vaccine.

    Because it is hard to predict which child will have a reaction, and because, unless the child is allergic to the mycin drugs, antibiotic treatment for pertussis is available, and because now there is research saying that vaccines can cause serious long-term complications for boys, I would think there is a good, logical argument for avoiding the pertussis vaccine.

    Notice I didn’t say that all vaccines should be avoided. I’m still doing research to determine whether or not that is a logical statement to make. But from what I have read about pertussis, it is a good one to skip if parents are looking for a way to minimize their child’s exposure to vaccines. A simple way to avoid the pertussis vaccine {DTaP: diptheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis} is to request the DT {diptheria and tetanus} or just the T {tetanus} instead.

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  • Reply Brandy Vencel January 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I’ll pray for you as you are making these decisions. I know it isn’t easy! And there is so much pressure…from all sides. The anti-vax crowd can be just as difficult as the pro-vax crowd.

    IF you decide not to vax, I would suggest — especially since you are pregnant — requesting that your vitamin D levels be drawn so you can see if you are at all deficient. That is an easy deficiency to correct — and very common to have this time of year — and can help you and your nursing baby ward off all kinds of things. I don’t pretend that it is the same as having a vaccine, but since we have chosen to not vaccinate our children, I think it is also our responsibility to do things to keep their immunity up.

  • Reply Brandy Ferrell January 17, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Last April I ended up very, very ill while on a trip. After we returned, I went to bed and slept for 23 hours, after which I still had coughing fits and felt dizzy and disoriented. I was so desperate that I allowed them to give me a DTaP vaccine (which was given by the doctors even though they had not gotten results back from the tests they had run). My entire upper arm swelled and was red with fever for an entire week. It took a month for the swelling to subside. The place was tender for weeks beyond that. I was horrified by it, as I have allowed my children to receive this vaccine in the past. I kept thinking, “If half of my arm is reacting, how much more would a baby’s body react to such things?”

    We are expecting our fourth child and I am trying desperately to make wise decisions about immunizations. I do not want to put my children at risk of contracting diseases that are deadly or permanently damaging, but I fear the reaction I had and what could happen to my children as a result of receiving a vaccine. (I have also been ignorant of the use of fetal tissue in vaccines, which appalls me!) Plus, I keep considering the money trail associated with the vaccines. I could go on about that, but I’ll stop here. I just want to say thank you for posting this series. I appreciate the research and thought you have put into this!

    Oh, and should I mention that my test for Pertussis came back negative after all?

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