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NC Department of Health and Human Services
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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.
  • All pregnant women during the third trimester of each pregnancy.
  • Adults 19 years of age or older who have not previously received a dose of Tdap

North Carolina Requirements

Five doses (DTaP). Three doses by age seven months and two booster doses, the first by age 19 months and the second on or after the fourth birthday and before entering school for the first time. If the fourth dose was administered on or after the fourth birthday, the fifth dose is not required.

A booster dose of tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is required for individuals who have not previously received it and are entering the seventh grade or by 12 years of age, whichever comes first.

Individuals entering college or university for the first time on or after July 1, 2008 must have had three doses of tetanus/diphtheria toxoid; one of which must be tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis.

Additional Resources



Updated: September 11, 2019