How the TDAP Vaccine Enables Whooping Cough To Spread

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Every year around this time a slew of news stories comes out about young infants who die of vaccine-preventable diseases, which is a devastating tragedy. The thought of a brand new baby dying from anything preventable is simultaneously infuriating and heart-wrenching.

Unfortunately, these stories don’t take into account that vaccines are not 100% effective, nor that they are free of risks. They give people a false sense of security, and perpetuate the assumption that getting a vaccine completely exempts a person from acquiring and transmitting the disease in question.

The articles don’t talk about primary vaccine failure (about 10 percent of people do not create antibodies at all), or vaccine efficiency waning. They don’t address that many infections with B. pertussis are subclinical or atypical, or that the bacterium that causes whooping cough, or pertussis, is mutating. The articles also don’t discuss asymptomatic carriage–or specifically that vaccinated children and adults can and do spread whooping cough all the time.

The articles and stories are part of a campaign of sorts to compel people to vaccinate. It uses emotion and it’s effective. We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect our youngest members, but is the conversation regarding the Tdap vaccine completely transparent?

I left the hospital without getting that vaccine, and I, of course, then got whooping cough,” said Veronica. “I remember sitting in a rocking chair and rocking her and loving on her and I look back thinking that was the time in which I was passing on this disease to her.”

Francesca Marie McNally was only three months old when she died of whooping cough, something she caught unknowingly from her mother, Veronica, who was unaware that she had whooping cough, also called pertussis. The mother blames the fact that she didn’t receive the Tdap vaccine when it was offered to her, before she left the hospital.

“When Francesca was a month old, she had RSV infection, a virus that causes cold-like symptoms. Because of that, she did not receive the pertussis vaccination recommended at 2 months.

However, McNally said, “One shot would not have protected her. It takes a series of shots. You’re not immune until 15 or 18 months.”

Tragically, they went to four different doctors before their smallest child was properly diagnosed with whooping cough. In a matter of a few months this small Michigan family of five was plagued by numerous infections passing between them: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), croup and whooping cough. They were misdiagnosed and their symptoms were not recognized as whooping cough until it was too late.

The Tdap Enables Asymptomatic Carriers

What these heart-wrenching stories often lack is the bigger more complicated picture, like that even if the mom got a Tdap, she could have still spread whooping cough. That any siblings–even fully vaccinated siblings–could have also spread whooping cough. The Tdap or DTaP vaccine is about 70 percent effective initially, but after two to four years can be as low as 34 percent effective. But it’s what it’s effective at that is the problem. It’s effective at creating asymptomatic carriers, not preventing transmission.

“…recent mathematical modelling studies have indicated that asymptomatic transmission of B. pertussis may be the main reason for the current resurgence of pertussis.”

All vaccines are attempting to mimic what natural infection provides, which is 100 percent natural immunity. If a vaccinated person caught whooping cough, that person may have a milder course of disease, not recognize they are sick or assume it’s just a common cold, and spread it to others.

The Tdap and Dtap Wanes Over Time (for Everyone)

One reason why there are so many boosters for young children, and pregnant women are recommended to get a Tdap every pregnancy, is because the vaccine effectiveness wanes dramatically over time.

The Tdap or DTaP vaccine is about 70 percent effective initially, but after two to four years can be as low as 34 percent effective.

You can see the increasing incidence of whooping cough despite nearly 85% of young children having completed the full DTaP series.

The only thing that is effective against spreading whooping cough, is if the mother had had a natural infection prior to becoming pregnant. When a person has a natural infection, in this case a mother, they have those antibodies for more than thirty years, which would protect women and their offspring through the child bearing years.

Not Every Pertussis Vaccine is the Same

Acellular pertussis vaccines contain between one and five B. pertussis antigens: pertussis toxin (Ptx), filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA), pertactin (Prn), and fimbriae (Fim2 and Fim3). That’s right. You could be getting a vaccine with as little as one antigen or as many as five. There is no consensus on which antigens should be included.

The WHO confirms that antigens may vary between vaccine brands:

“There is as yet no consensus about the antigenic composition of an ideal acellular pertussis vaccine. Acellular pertussis vaccines currently available from different manufacturers should be considered as different and unique products because of the presence of one or more different components (chemically or genetically detoxified pertussis toxin, filamentous haemagglutinin (FHA), 69kDa outer-membrane protein (also know as pertactin), fimbrial-2 and fimbrial-3 antigens) in different concentrations, and with different degrees of adsorption to different adjuvants.”

Tdap and Dtap Target the Toxins Produced by the Bacteria

The primary antigen in the vaccines are toxoids, which are inactivated toxins. This is what Bordetella pertussis creates once inside your body: a toxin. So the vaccine directs the immune system to create antibodies to the toxins that the bacteria produces, so in other words, it makes it less likely that you will have classical symptoms of disease, but not that you won’t “catch” or worse, spread the disease.

This FDA study helps provide an understanding of rising rates of whooping cough and response to vaccination:

“… acellular pertussis vaccines licensed by the FDA are effective in preventing the disease among those vaccinated, but suggests that they may not prevent infection from the bacteria that causes whooping cough in those vaccinated or its spread to other people, including those who may not be vaccinated.”

The vaccine does not prevent colonization or spread of the bacteria. It prevents disease symptoms, in other words, it doesn’t let the bacteria wreak havoc on your body.

The bacteria produces other toxins as well (not included in the vaccines), including adenylate cyclase toxin and tracheal cytotoxin being the most prominent ones.

Pertussis toxin and adenylate cyclase toxin allows the bacteria to evade the immune system.

Tracheal cytotoxin paralyzes and kills your lung cilia, preventing mucus from moving out of your lungs. Once the mucus begins pooling in your lungs, your body will attempt to expel that mucus with physical force, hence, “whooping cough”. Ironically, antibiotics are considered standard medical treatment for pertussis, in which the Cochrane review concludes:

“Although antibiotics were effective in eliminating B. pertussis, they did not alter the subsequent clinical course of the illness. There is insufficient evidence to determine the benefits of prophylactic treatment of pertussis contacts.”

In order to understand why this is the case, it is important to understand how tracheal cytotoxin is produced:

The tracheal cytotoxin is a cell wall breakdown product” (Source here)

Considering that the mechanism for how antibiotics work is by weakening and destroying the bacterial cell wall, the administration of antibiotics would inadvertently unleash a massive amount of tracheal cytotoxin into the lungs. So while the antibiotic treatment is effective at eliminating pertussis bacteria, it makes sense why it does not alter the clinical course of the illness, as the Cochrane review suggests.

Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model:

“…aP vaccines do not prevent colonization following direct challenge or infection by transmission. In addition, aP-vaccinated animals are capable of transmitting disease to naïve contacts. By comparison, wP-vaccinated animals cleared infection significantly more quickly than aP-vaccinated or naïve animals.” (Read the study here.)

Of the various toxins, the vaccine only contains pertussis toxoid, meaning that your immune system will only recognize pertussis toxin, not any of the other ones. The acellular components in the vaccine are not enough to allow your immune system to always recognize the bacteria (3-5 antigens out of a possible 3000 when compared to the whole cell pertussis vaccine). And considering that there are pertussis strains that are pertactin-negative (one of the acellular antigens usually in the pertussis vaccine), it allows the bacteria to evade a vaccine-induced immunity even more effectively.

Vitamin C Protocol for Pertussis

Vitamin C (ascorbate) is a very powerful anti-oxidant when used at the correct dosing for an individual. Suzanne Humphries, M.D. writes:

“The ascorbate will not kill the bacteria, but it will mobilize the neutrophils and phagocytes (the immune cells that process the infection), which grind to a halt without it, because ascorbate is their fuel[28],[29]. The bacterial toxin forms a barrier to the immune system. In using ascorbate, you are clearing out the barrier and allowing the immune system to get in and deal with the bacteria. It could still take the whole 100 days to deal with the B. pertussis and start to regrow cilia—, but the child will have LESS serious symptoms, because you are keeping the body as clear of toxin as possible, and the immune pathways functioning properly.” 

“The functions of vitamin C and ascorbate in any toxin-mediated disease (which includes tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, Staph. aureus, Strep. A, meningococcal invasive disease, pneumococcal invasive disease, etc.), are numerous. Three of the many fundamental functions of ascorbate are strengthening cellular and vascular collagen bonds, detoxifying the body, and keeping mitochondria running properly. The very common reason why people who are ill for a long time have extreme lethargy—is lack of vitamin C[30]. You can’t have functioning mitochondria without ascorbate.”

To learn more about whooping cough infection and the Vitamin C protocol, read the entire article by Suzanne Humphries, M.D.