A NEW whooping cough vaccine introduced in 1999 is less effective than the one it replaced, possibly explaining a resurgence of the disease in children, researchers have found.

A study of more than 40,000 Queensland children found that those who received a full course of the new vaccine were three times more likely to have developed whooping cough between 2009 and 2011, compared with the old vaccine.

The children studied were born in 1998, at a time when the old vaccine was being phased out, and therefore received either a full course of the old or new vaccine, or a mixture of both. The vaccine is delivered at two months, four months and six months.

The study, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, helps explain a spike of whooping cough cases in children aged between six and 11. Co-author Stephen Lambert said younger children were not included in the study, but the new vaccine appeared to offer good protection for some years.

That protection could wear off around the time they went to school, he said, and booster doses may not be sufficient to guard against the disease.

Professor Lambert said the old vaccine commonly caused redness, swelling and pain where it was injected, and could also lead to children developing fevers or crying for long periods.

”In making the switch in vaccines, we may have traded off some of the protection [the old] whole cell vaccines provided in exchange for a better tolerated vaccine,” he said.

Cases of whooping cough in Australia have jumped from 14,287 in 2008 to 38,596 last year. In Victoria this year there have been 2595 cases, compared with 5361 for the same period last year. Eight infants have died of whooping cough in Australia since 2008, including a 14-day-old baby in Victoria last February.

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