Pertussis Vaccine in Israel: Who Needs It and Why?


The pertussis vaccine is not just for babies and children. 

Pertussis (whooping cough) is one of the fastest-growing preventable diseases in the US.  The disease rate has more than doubled since 2003, with 92% of hospitalizations occurring in infants less than 6 months old!  We have seen pertussis spread among gap year students in Israel.  The best way to prevent pertussis among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. 

Although anyone can get pertussis, the disease can be most dangerous, even fatal for infants.  Getting vaccinated against pertussis is especially important for families with infants and caregivers of infants. Although pertussis is part of childhood vaccine programs, the immunity wanes after 10 years, and most adults are not immune.  Oftentimes, adults do not receive pertussis boosters, and this is a mistake! 

The CDC, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, currently recommends all adults to receive a pertussis booster once, ideally at age 19 years old.  Vaccines are especially recommended for pregnant women and people near infants (even siblings and grandparents), as 85% of pertussis hospitalizations stem from family members. 

In Israel, physicians rarely discuss the need for pertussis vaccine with adult patients, and it is not routinely given to adults, including pregnant women.  Women planning to get pregnant may qualify for the vaccine through their Kupat Holim, but others, including spouses, must make private arrangements for the vaccine.  Because this is rarely discussed by physicians in Israel, EMA Care helps the public with awareness about the disease and vaccine availability.

Infants are most vulnerable to pertussis before they are adequately vaccinated when they are at least 6 months old (after their third vaccine).  Adults who do not have a pertussis vaccine can infect unvaccinated infants before they know they have the disease, so telling people who are sick not to approach a newborn is not enough protection against pertussis.  The disease is not usually fatal in adults, but it can be in infants!

There are pertussis vaccines (combined with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines) for children, preteens, teens, and adults. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, while the pertussis booster vaccine for preteens, teens, and adults is called Tdap. These are combination vaccines that protect against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. There is no available pertussis-only vaccine.  It is safe to receive the Tdap, even if you have received a tetanus vaccine recently.

The CDC recommends the Tdap pertussis vaccine, which has been proven safe for pregnant women.  Administering the vaccine to the mother towards the end of pregnancy (Weeks 27-36) enables the pregnant woman to develop a high level of antibodies against whooping cough and pass them to the fetus she is carrying, thus providing the newborn infant with protection before vaccination.  The newborn baby is also protected when the mother has a reduced chance of getting pertussis.

In Israel, the Tdap became a part of the national health basket in January 2015, but not every person may qualify to get the vaccine.  EMA Care urges you to ask your physician for the vaccine, which the Kupah’s nurse can administer.  If your physician says that you cannot get the vaccine through the kupah, arrangements can be made to get the vaccine privately or through a travel clinic.  If you are here as a tourist, EMA Care’s professionals will arrange to purchase and administer the vaccine for you.  For more information about vaccines, pertussis, or any health needs in Israel, contact EMA Care.

EMA Care provides medical concierge, case management, and patient advocacy services to tourists, students, and Israel residents. We can be contacted at  Schedule your free consultation today



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