Social media post about Kentucky pertussis outbreak receives anti-vaccine backlash

Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams shared a social media post using the pertussis outbreak in Kentucky to illustrate the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Some social media users who commented on the post argued that practices such as covering coughs and taking vitamins are sufficient to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. Others questioned the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Recommendation: These types of posts may undermine patients’ perception of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines—particularly whooping cough vaccines. When responding to patient questions about whooping cough vaccines, messaging may emphasize that pertussis, or whooping cough, is one of many highly contagious vaccine-preventable diseases that can cause severe illness and death, especially in children. Vaccination remains our best protection against diseases like whooping cough. There are two types of vaccines protect against whooping cough: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccines are recommended for babies and children younger than 7 years old; and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines are recommended for children aged 7 and older. Those over the age of seven should receive a booster vaccine every 10 years. Additional messaging about general vaccine safety and effectiveness may emphasize that experts attribute infectious disease outbreaks to low vaccination rates, which jeopardize herd immunity. All vaccines are rigorously tested using strict safety standards before becoming available to the public.