I do remember that I have read (or heard) somewhere that as a human is older, the whole cell vaccine (and high antigen dose one) has more and more adverse effects.

As it is consistent with the target age group mentioned in the leaflets attached to the vaccines:

  • whole-cell DTP vaccine (Instytut Biotechnologii Surowic i Szczepionek BIOMED S.A.) is suitable "for children not older then 3 years",
  • high antigen doseInfanrix-DTPa (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals S.A.) "shall not be used for children older than 7 years",
  • low antigen dose Boostrix (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals S.A.) is "suitable for a person older than 4 years",

I suspect it is true. Unfortunately I lack a reliable source to both confirm that and read more about the effects. Can anyone provide a reference.

As there is a strain of pertussis "resistant" to acellular vaccine, IMHO it would make much more sense to use whole-cell vaccine for adults too.


2 Answers 2


It seems it is not about pertussis.

I have found information in the Infanrix-DTPa characteristic that it is not recommended for adults due to high dose of diphteria toxoid.

Both Infanrix-DTPa and whole-cell DTP vaccines contain over 30 international units (whatever it is) of diphteria toxoid while Boostrix contains "not less than 2 i.u.".


Yes, it is true that the whole cell vaccine can have more adverse side effects on older patients (and much younger patients also). This is because their immune systems can be weaker and they are more susceptible to side effects. Some of the vaccine adjuvants (preservatives) can also be dangerous for at-risk patients, and can have more serious long-term effects. According to the CDC, the ingredients include:

Each 0.5-mL dose of Daptacel® (Sanofi Pasteur) contains 15 Lf diphtheria toxoid, 5 Lf tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis antigens [10 µg detoxified pertussis toxin (PT), 5 µg filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA), 3 µg pertactin, and 5 µg fimbriae types 2 and 3 (FIM)]. Other ingredients per 0.5-mL dose include 1.5 mg aluminum phosphate (0.33 mg of aluminum) as the adjuvant, ≤5 µg residual formaldehyde, <50 nanogram (ng) residual glutaraldehyde and 3.3 mg [0.6% volume per volume (v/v)] 2-phenoxyethanol (not as a preservative).

With any vaccine, one must weigh out whether it would be riskier to get the actual disease or the side effects of the vaccine.

For further reading:

  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that whole-cell DTP vaccine is suitable "for children not older then 3 years" (Instytut Biotechnologii Surowic i Szczepionek BIOMED S.A.). Also Infanrix-DTPa (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals S.A.) "shall not be used for children older than 7 years" while Boostrix (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals S.A.) is "suitable for a person older than 4 years". Thus it looks like the problem is with a mature immunesystem. I would bet it may be overreacting or so. $\endgroup$
    – abukaj
    Feb 25, 2018 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ This is because their immune systems can be weaker What does this refer to? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2018 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ I think we can safely say that the average person reading this response can just assume it is always safer to vaccinate. In the unfortunate age where Jenny McCarthy's mommy instinct is given equal weight to actual experts, we should avoid ambiguity and plainly identify failure to vaccinate for what it is: irresponsible bordering on negligent / child abuse. Vaccines save lives. Diseases take them. It's almost like living with the benefits of vaccines has afforded people the luxury of forgetting why we need them. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2018 at 13:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JustinMasters Any kind of propaganda (even one supporting vaccination) is a misconduct that should be avoided. It may easily backfire. It is fact that vaccination may have adverse side effects. In some cases (eg. TB in Canada) it is safer to not vaccinate. It is also probably the case with vaccines containing high doses of diphteria toxoid in adults. Failure to acknowledge it leads to be accused as a member of vaccine genocide lobby and no longer trusted as reliable source by people interested in facts. $\endgroup$
    – abukaj
    Apr 8, 2018 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ When did we start talking about TB vaccines? I can't remember ever having a doctor recommend that I be vaccinated against TB, but I can assure you that if I ever had to go anywhere where I had a high probability of being exposed to TB, I would take the vaccine prior to going. It's the only responsible thing to do. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2018 at 10:59

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