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December 1, 1978

Pertussis vaccine issues unsettled

JAMA. 1978;240(23):2519. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290230011002

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A serious outbreak of pertussis in the British Isles, where more than 50,000 cases of the disease have occurred since Nov 1,1977, has hastened a debate over the usefulness of pertussis vaccine.

While routine pertussis immunization in infants and young children generally has been practiced around the world for the past 25 years, concerns over vaccine effectiveness and side effects have now become prominent.

An international symposium held recently at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Md, at which more than 200 experts on bacteriologic vaccines spent three days discussing all possible aspects of Bordetella pertussis and its vaccine, did little to settle the controversy.

"As with many other infectious diseases, there was a great decline in the rate of pertussis mortality before any vaccine was available," said Dr Gordon T. Stewart, head of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, at a news conference