Background: Routine use of whole-cell pertussis (wP) vaccines was suspended in some countries in the 1970s and 1980s because of concerns about adverse effects. Following this action, there was a resurgence of whooping cough. Acellular pertussis (aP) vaccines, containing purified or recombinant Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis) antigens, were developed in the hope that they would be as effective, but less reactogenic than the whole-cell vaccines. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 1999, and previously updated in 2012. In this update, we included no new studies.
Objectives: To assess the efficacy and safety of acellular pertussis vaccines in children and to compare them with the whole-cell vaccines.
Search methods: We searched CENTRAL (2013, Issue 12), MEDLINE (1950 to January week 2, 2014), EMBASE (1974 to January 2014), Biosis Previews (2009 to January 2014) and CINAHL (2009 to January 2014).
Selection criteria: We selected double-blind randomised efficacy and safety trials of aP vaccines in children up to six years old, with active follow-up of participants and laboratory verification of pertussis cases.
Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias in the studies. Differences in trial design precluded a meta-analysis of the efficacy data. We pooled the safety data from individual trials using a random-effects meta-analysis model.
Main results: We included six efficacy trials with a total of 46,283 participants and 52 safety trials with a total of 136,541 participants. Most of the safety trials did not report the methods for random sequence generation, allocation concealment and blinding, which made it difficult to assess the risk of bias in the studies. The efficacy of multi-component (≥ three) vaccines varied from 84% to 85% in preventing typical whooping cough (characterised by 21 or more consecutive days of paroxysmal cough with confirmation of B. pertussis infection by culture, appropriate serology or contact with a household member who has culture-confirmed pertussis), and from 71% to 78% in preventing mild pertussis disease (characterised by seven or more consecutive days of cough with confirmation of B. pertussis infection by culture or appropriate serology). In contrast, the efficacy of one- and two-component vaccines varied from 59% to 78% against typical whooping cough and from 41% to 58% against mild pertussis disease. Multi-component acellular vaccines are more effective than low-efficacy whole-cell vaccines, but may be less effective than the highest-efficacy whole-cell vaccines. Most systemic and local adverse events were significantly less common with aP vaccines than with wP vaccines for the primary series as well as for the booster dose.
Authors' conclusions: Multi-component (≥ three) aP vaccines are effective in preventing whooping cough in children. Multi-component aP vaccines have higher efficacy than low-efficacy wP vaccines, but they may be less efficacious than the highest-efficacy wP vaccines. Acellular vaccines have fewer adverse effects than whole-cell vaccines for the primary series as well as for booster doses.