A new study from Public Health Ontario has shown how immunizations you receive as a child can wane into your adult years.
The study, published last week in the journal Vaccine, looked at whooping cough, or pertussis, and found that vaccine effectiveness falls “rapidly” a decade after the vaccine.
“The longest it was since your last dose of pertussis vaccine the less effective it was,” Jeffrey Kwong, co-author of the study and research scientist at Public Health Ontario.
That’s why it’s really important to keep up with the schedule, Kwong explained, saying he would like to do more research to know if more boosters are required.
The study was trying to determine whether or not Canada’s vaccine schedule is effective.
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The whooping cough vaccine is currently recommended before a child is six months old, with boosters at around 18 months old, four-six years old and 14-16 years old.
But that means when someone reaches adulthood, the antibodies that were created during the boosters start to wane, Dawn Bowdish, McMaster University professor and Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, told Global News.
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“The important implication is that a significant proportion of these people will not be protected into their childbearing years,” Bowdish said.
Whooping cough is a high-risk disease for infants, but babies can’t get the vaccine before they are two months old.
Bowdish says during pregnancy, the mother can pass the antibodies to the baby, which is why it’s important to keep your immunizations up to date, or to get a booster shot if you are pregnant, or planning to get pregnant.
The study also has implications about other vaccines and boosters for adults.
Bowdish says recommendations on boosters for vaccines for all diseases change as researchers learn more about them.
“We’ve known for decades that you need a tetanus shot every 10 years as an example,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we have to do it as a case-by-case basis and every time we change something, we make a best guess about if it’s going to protect people.
Adults can ask their doctors to test for immunity to certain diseases.
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Top told Global News the issue of vaccine effectiveness is an important reason to be vaccinated, because there is always certain people for whom the vaccine may not completely work.
“That’s why we want everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated — so we can protect that one person,” Top said.
*with files from Meghan Collie