Friday, February 05, 2010


This is the third vaccine in my twelve part vaccine blog series. Here are the links to my previous vaccine posts in case you missed them or want to refer back.

***Disclaimer: The information about vaccines in this post came from The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears. I am in the process of reading the book and I am simply sharing as I learn. I strongly recommend doing your own research before deciding if vaccines are right for your child.***

DTaP stands for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Since this vaccine covers three different diseases, this post is going to be a doozie. There was about twenty pages of info in this chapter, so I am going to try and give you the main highlights without writing 10 pages worth of stuff. Wish me luck. :)

Lets start by trying to understand a little about each individual disease, then we will cover the vaccine.

Diphtheria is a very serious throat infection that is caused by a bacterium. The germ secretes a toxin that irritates the lining of the throat and upper lungs, causing severe coughing and breathing difficulty. The breathing passage becomes swollen and may close off all together.

Things you should know about diphtheria:

- It is transmitted like the common cold.

- It is not very common. There has been a maximum of only five cases reported each year. Many years go by without any reported cases.

- It is a serious disease. About 10% of the cases are fatal.

- It is treatable. An antioxin is given through an IV and antibiotics are given to kill the germ.

Tetanus is an acute infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium that lives in soil and on dirty, rusty metal and can also contaminate unsterile needles. Once introduced to a deep dirty wound (or through a needle), the germs multiply and secrete a toxin that enters a persons nerves and causes paralysis throughout the entire body.

Things you should know about tetanus:

- It is not common. There are 50 to 100 cases a year. All occur in adults over 25 who didn't receive a booster shot.

- It is a serious disease. 15% of the cases are fatal.

- It is kind of treatable (if that makes any sense at all). Antibiotics can be given to help eliminate the germ, but there is no medication that will reverse the paralyzing toxin. It just has to run its course. A person needs intensive care and life support while the paralysis wears off.

Pertussis (aka: whooping cough) is a bacterium that infects the upper lungs. It is similar to diphtheria, but not as serious. Symptoms mimic the common cold in the first week, but the couch worsens into prolonged coughing fits that last from 30 seconds to two minutes. The cough is so severe that a person can barely breath, and when breath is finally possible, it sounds like a gasping "whoop".

Things you should know about pertussis:

- It is transmitted like the common cold.

- It can last for as long as 3 months, even with treatment.

- Infection usually creates lifelong immunity, but the "natural immunity" is not perfect, so there is no guarantee.

- It is very common. About 10,000 reported cases each year.

- This is a very serious disease during the first six months of life. There is a 1% fatality for that age group. It is not considered serious in older infants, children and adults.

- Again, this disease is kind of treatable. Antibiotics are given to kill the germ so a person is no longer contagious. But the damage to the airway caused by infection produces weeks of ongoing cough.

Whew! Ok, everyone take a quick breather and we will move onto the vaccine part of this post.
Nope, we are not slowing down for a break. Buck up Private. We gotta keep on truckin'!

Ok, here are some things you should know about the DTaP vaccine:

- It is not a live virus vaccine. (That means that it does not contain the entire germ, so there is no way to become infected with the disease from the vaccine.)

- Side effects used to be very severe, but since the 1990's the side effects have been fewer and less severe. Standard side effects occur more often with DTaP than with HIB. 15% of babies suffer from a standard side effect. (I will do a separate post that will list out the standard side effects for you all)

- Serious reactions that have been reported are Guillain- Barre Syndrome, brain damage and other nerve dysfunctions. These reactions are rare.

- Two of the three brands of this vaccine use cow tissue extract in their tetanus and or diphtheria culture in order to nourish the germs. (Um, gross!)

- There are several questionable ingredients in this vaccine. Mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, polysorbate and 2- phenoxyethenanol. Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical. It is the chemical that is used to preserved frogs, worms, pigs and all that other stuff that we dissected in biology. Chances are that we inhaled more of that in biology than will be injected with the vaccine. Polysorbate and 2- phenoxyethenanol is toxic in large amounts. The amount in a shot is probably harmless.

Reasons to get the vaccine:
Pertussis is very serious for babies in the first six months of life. Diptheria is rare int he US, but its very dangerous. Vaccinating helps keep it out of our population. Giving the tetanus vaccine series while a person is young is a convenient way to make sure a child has protection as he grows up.

Some people choose not to get this vaccine because tetanus and diphtheria is not likely for a baby to contract. The chemical components are a concern to parents and cow tissue extract may concern parents.

Closing paragraph from Doctor Sears:
There are three diseases involved with this vaccine. All are serious, but only one, pertussis, is common in the United States. With pertussis so prevalent, this vaccine is very important. Infant fatalities do occur. The one drawback is the ingredient list, although, thankfully, the actual amounts of these chemicals are like a drop in a bucket- and a very small drop in a big bucket. Vaccination rates for DTaP must remain high if we are to keep pertussis at bay.
I've never seen any diphtheria or tetanus in my office, but I sure do see my fair share of pertussis- at least one case each month. And virtually all of these are in unvaccinated kids. I have had to hospitalize a few young babies, but fortunately they pulled through without any trouble. I consider this an important vaccine for infants and toddlers.

My opinion:
I am NOT a fan of the ingredient list. Not at all. I am also not a fan of cow tissue extract being in the vaccine. And since tetanus and diphtheria are not common, my first instinct is to say "Na. I wont worry about this vaccine for my kids." But pertussis makes me very nervous. And for that reason alone I think this will go on the list of vaccines that my children will get. But they will probably only get two out of the five doses. I probably wont have them receive this vaccine after the age of six months. But I will obviously play that by ear.

That's it! Did you make it? Do I have anyone left reading this post?

*chirp chirp*

Well, if anyone IS left reading this, you get a giant cookie. :) I would love to know if you all are finding this helpful/informative. Or if you would like to just stop the vaccine posts all together. I may do a poll sometime in the future, but if you aren't scared, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think about these posts. :)


jamie b said...

Thanks for all the wonderful information :) I just recently read a blog of a family that lost a baby to whooping cough. That alone made me feel OK about giving B the vaccine. It is so crazy the stuff they put in those things.

mary said...

I am enjoying your vaccine info. We go in 2 weeks for our 4 month well baby check-up and of course have those vaccine shots. We will probably do the second Dtap shot. It's scary all the ingredients in these vaccines.

tammi said...

I like your posts. They're a good refresher for me. I need to be studying/thinking about what Tyler needs to get.
Live viruses (while alarming) in vaccines are not nearly as concerning to me as the ingredients. ARSENIC? FORMALDEHYDE? It may be a drop in a big bucket, but I don't know if I'm willing to take the chance that my kid get the drop.

I definitely err on the side of NON-Vacc, but now that Tyler's two we need to research what he may need to protect him in the future.

Keep it up! :)

Wendy W said...

Ok...I read your post (not because I have any babies that need vaccinated...mine have all been vaccinated!! (RA even got several extras thanks to a Dr when we lived out of town!!)I just find it interesting and enjoy reading your opinions! NEVER would it have occurred to me 19 years research shots!! I just figured the doctors knew best. Not sure what I would do if I had it to do over. BUT it's always good to be informed and make the decision for ourselves!!
Now, I'll expect my cookie....any day next week will be fine.

Wren said...

So, where's my big cookie? ;)