PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Five-year-old twins Solania and Enzo are getting their fifth dose of the DTaP vaccine today.

The vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

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“I think it’s important to protect the kids from all the illnesses out there,” says their mother, Teresa Barrera.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine is raising concerns about that final dose of whooping cough vaccine and just how long it protects children.

Kaiser Permanente researchers found the effectiveness of the shot fades about 40 percent in the five years after the vaccination.

“No vaccine is 100% effective. The estimates are that this is 90 percent effective,” says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, an internist at Allegheny General Hospital.

In the study, 80 percent of the kids who had whooping cough caught it from an older relative.

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“There’s a big push now for anyone who’s going to be exposed to infants or young children to make sure that they’re vaccinated,” Dr. Itskowitz continues.

“It’s time for those booster shots. Experts recommend older people get a booster if they didn’t have one in their teens,” says Dr. Amy Porter, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

“All adults 19 and older should receive pertussis vaccination,” Dr. Itskowitz recommends, but also adds, “There is a test for pertussis, and the antibiotics these days are very effective against pertussis.”   

Teresa feels good knowing her family is protected.

“I think it’s important. I think it’s better some protection than no protection at all,” she says.

Her twins will need another whooping cough booster in about six years.

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