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NC Department of Health and Human Services
Women's and Children's Health Home
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North Carolina Immunization Branch

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

The Disease

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.  Pertussis is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.

The Vaccine

The vaccine to prevent pertussis is given in combination with vaccines to prevent tetanus and diphtheria.  The vaccine given to children through age 7 is called DTaP while the booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. 

Who Should get Vaccinated?

Everyone needs protection from pertussis.

Children under 7 years of age should receive five doses of DTaP.  The doses should be given at 2, 4 and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and at 4 through 6 years.

Children 7 through 10 years of age should receive one dose of Tdap if they were not fully vaccinated with DTaP.

Adolescents through age 18 should receive one dose of Tdap; preferably at 11 through 12 years of age.

Everyone 19 years of age or older should receive one dose of Tdap.

North Carolina Requirements

Children in North Carolina are required to receive five doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine.  The first three doses should be received by 7 months of age.  A booster should be given at 15 to 18 months of age and a second booster should be given at 4 to 6 years of age and before enrolling in school for the first time.  Children who receive the first booster dose on or after their fourth birthday are not required to have a second booster dose.

Adolescents are required to receive one dose of Tdap vaccine before entering the 6th grade if five or more years have passed since their last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine.

Students enrolling in college or university for the first time on or after July 1, 2008 are required to have three doses of tetanus and diphtheria-containing vaccine and a booster dose of Tdap vaccine if 10 or more years has passed since their last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine.
A dose of Tdap vaccine is not required for any student over 64 years of age.


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