The DTaP vaccine is used to vaccinate for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis. Diphtheria and tetanus are extremely low disease risks in the modern-day United States (see Disease Risk – Diphtheria and Disease Risk – Tetanus), but pertussis (a.k.a. “whooping cough”) is a disease that still carries a material risk of death in infants under the age of two (see Disease Risk – Pertussis).
Vaccine-injuries such as brain encephalopathy from the earlier DPT vaccine in the 1980′s led to a number of successful lawsuits (documented in the 1985 book DPT: A Shot in the Dark) that caused concern that pharmaceutical companies would stop producing vaccines, which subsequently led to the 1986 federal law that protects vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits (see Vaccine Injury Compensation Program). The DTaP vaccine, using acellular pertussis rather than whole-cell pertussis, was developed in the mid-1990′s to attempt to reduce the risk of vaccine-injury.
Scientific evidence indicates that the current DTaP vaccine could be partly responsible for recent whooping cough outbreaks because it encourages proliferation of another bacteria strain (parapertussis) that also causes whooping cough (see Has the DTaP vaccine caused the increase in Whooping Cough?), and that a more effective vaccine needs to be developed. Scientific research also indicates that vaccination with the DPT vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months has been associated with a much higher risk of asthma, with data indicating that 56% of all childhood asthma cases could be avoided by starting the DPT vaccine at age 5 months instead of age 2 months defined in the current USA schedule (see Vaccine-Induced Asthma). There has not been a noticeable reduction in asthma rates since the DTaP vaccine was introduced, which indicates that the DTaP has a similar risk of asthma as the DPT. The risk of asthma from earlier vaccination (approximately 1 in 13 vaccine-induced asthma cases) appears to far outweigh the risk from pertussis (see Disease Risk – Pertussis), so a parent might consider whether this vaccine-series could be started later (e.g. at or after the age of 5 months) in order to avoid the asthma risk.
Pertussis outbreaks occur cyclically, around every 5 years, despite record-high vaccination rates, and regularly infects vaccinated children. These outbreaks occur not because of unvaccinated children, but because the vaccine simply is not very effective (see Whooping Cough Outbreaks and Vaccine Failures). Further, this vaccine primarily generates a Th2 immune response (associated with allergies and asthma) rather than the Th1 immune response that attacks disease-causing pathogens (see Has the DTaP vaccine caused the increase in Whooping Cough?) SmartVax advocates should consider advocating for a more-effective and safer pertussis vaccine.