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South Zone Pertussis Outbreak: Frequently Asked Questions

Are the pertussis immunization booster clinics still on?

Pertussis booster clinics for children living in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services ended August 31, as this was a limited-time outbreak response strategy only. It's important to note the routine immunization schedule has not been changed, and still provides children with protection from pertussis. So long as your child is up-to-date on all routine immunizations, your child is considered immunized. Visit: www.immunizealberta.ca/

What should I do if I’m not sure whether any of my family members need a booster?

If you’re unsure of your or your children’s immunization status, call your family physician, your community health centre or Health Link at 811. Click this link for information on the Routine Immunization Schedule.

What is ‘breakthrough illness’ or ‘breakthrough disease’?

When a child is fully immunized for his or her age, according to the Routine Immunization Schedule, and gets sick  with a vaccine-preventable illness, that illness is often called breakthrough illness or breakthrough disease, as the illness has ‘broken through’ the armour of immunization.  This can happen a few years after immunization, as the strength of the immunization may weaken or wane/wear off.  The good news is that this is not very common, and immunized children who experience breakthrough illness/disease tend to have less severe symptoms than children who are not immunized at all.

Is it possible for my child to get a booster dose that ONLY protects against pertussis?

No, in Canada, the vaccine that protects against pertussis also protects against diphtheria and tetanus (dTap vaccine), and (if getting the dTap-IPV vaccine), polio.  The booster dose of either the dTap or dTap-IPV is safe.

My child is already up-to-date according to the Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule.  Isn’t that enough?  Is it safe to add booster doses?

The Routine Immunization Schedule offers great coverage for children, reducing their risk of illness significantly and also reducing the seriousness of illness if a child does experience breakthrough disease.  That being said, at times, we do still see an increase in breakthrough illness in children up-to-date on immunizations for their age, for certain disease.  In an outbreak situation – as we’re experiencing in the South Zone right now – children experiencing breakthrough disease can prolong an outbreak, and put vulnerable groups, such as babies, at risk for severe illness or even death.  It’s important that we take this additional step of offering booster doses to children at risk of breakthrough disease, to reduce risk of further spread of illness and help control the outbreak.  Booster doses are safe.  Pertussis disease is not safe.

Is an additional/booster dose of pertussis safe?

Yes, the booster dose of pertussis immunization is safe.  Pertussis disease is not safe.

Will my child still get his or her grade nine dose of pertussis immunization?

Your public health nurse will advise you about future doses of pertussis immunization for your child, when he or she reaches grade nine.

Can pertussis vaccine cause pertussis?

No, pertussis vaccine can’t cause pertussis.  The pertussis vaccine doesn’t contain any live pertussis bacteria, so can’t make your child sick.