Injection-site pain and swelling are the most common side effects of vaccines against pertussis (whooping cough). There are also reports of seizures, encephalitis, brain disorders, and other severe side effects.

Pertussis Vaccine Side Effects

Injection-site pain and swelling are the most common side effects of vaccines against pertussis (whooping cough). There are also reports of seizures, encephalitis, brain disorders, and other severe side effects.

What are the side effects of whooping cough vaccines?

The pertussis (whooping cough) component of combination vaccines like DTaP and Tdap is more likely to cause side effects than the Tetanus (T) or Diphtheria (D) components. Even so, serious side effects of the vaccine are very rare.

For children who do suffer serious side effects after a dose of DTaP, doctors generally recommend another vaccine called DT that does not have the pertussis component.

DT vaccines may be recommended for children who had certain side effects after a pertussis vaccine. These side effects include:

  • Fever over 105ºF within 2 days
  • Severe pain or swelling
  • Collapse or shock-like state within 2 days
  • Persistent crying for more than 3 hours
  • Seizures or convulsions within 3 days
  • Brain or Neurological condition
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) or severe muscle weakness within 6 weeks
  • Moderate or severe illness (wait until you get better)

What are pertussis vaccine names?

Can the vaccine cause pertussis?

No. Whooping cough vaccines can’t give you whooping cough because they do not contain any live bacteria.

The whooping cough vaccines we use today for children and adults in the United States contain purified, inactivated parts of the bacterium that causes whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis).

In the United States, the only whooping cough vaccines contain purified, inactivated parts of the bacterium that causes whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis).

These vaccines contain “acellular pertussis” — the “aP” in DTaP and Tdap — rather than “whole-cell pertussis that was used in DTP vaccines several decades ago.

What are common side effects of the pertussis vaccine?

The most common side effects from the DTaP pertussis vaccine include:

  • Fever (up to about 1 out of 4 children)
  • Redness or swelling where the shot was given (up to about 1 out of 4 children)
  • Soreness or tenderness where the shot was given (up to about 1 out of 4 children)
  • Swelling of the entire arm or leg in which the shot was given for 1 to 7 days after the shot (up to about 1 out of 30 children)

These side effects are more common after the 4th or 5th dose of the DTaP series of immunizations against pertussis.

Other mild problems include:

  • Fussiness (up to about 1 out of 3 children)
  • Tiredness or poor appetite (up to about 1 out of 10 children)
  • Vomiting (up to about 1 out of 50 children)

These problems generally occur 1 to 3 days after the shot is given.

Tdap pertussis vaccines commonly cause side effects at the injection-site (redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness), body-aches, fatigue, or fever. In adults who have received 2 doses of Tdap, the most common side effect was pain where the shot was injected.

What are severe side effects of the pertussis vaccine?

Severe side effects of pertussis vaccines are extremely rare, especially in adults. The possible risks from the vaccine include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Brachial neuritis
  • Brain inflammation
  • Collapse or shock-like state
  • Coma
  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Death
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Extensive swelling
  • Facial palsy
  • Fainting and fall injuries after the shot
  • Febrile seizure (fever causing seizure)
  • Fever over 104ºF
  • Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Hypersensitivity (Arthus reaction)
  • Hypotonic-Hyporesponsive Episode (HHE)
  • Latex reaction
  • Muscle pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Progressive neurological disorder
  • Seizures

What other side effects have been reported?

  • Apnea (stop breathing temporarily)
  • Arthus-type hypersensitivity reactions
  • Bronchitis
  • Blood disorders
  • Brain inflammation
  • Cellulitis
  • Cyanosis or “Blue Baby Syndrome”
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear pain
  • Encephalitis
  • Encephalopathy
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Low blood platelet count
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Unusual crying or screaming

Where can I get more information?

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