BACKGROUND: In the United States, children receive five doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine before 7 years of age. The duration of protection after five doses of DTaP is unknown. METHODS: We assessed the risk of pertussis in children in California relative to the time since the fifth dose of DTaP from 2006 to 2011. This period included a large outbreak in 2010. We conducted a case-control study involving members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California who were vaccinated with DTaP at 47 to 84 months of age. We compared children with pertussis confirmed by a positive polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay with two sets of controls: those who were PCR-negative for pertussis and closely matched controls from the general population of health-plan members. We used logistic regression to examine the risk of pertussis in relation to the duration of time since the fifth DTaP dose. Children who received whole-cell pertussis vaccine during infancy or who received any pertussis-containing vaccine after their fifth dose of DTaP were excluded. RESULTS: We compared 277 children, 4 to 12 years of age, who were PCR-positive for pertussis with 3318 PCR-negative controls and 6086 matched controls. PCR-positive children were more likely to have received the fifth DTaP dose earlier than PCR-negative controls (P<0.001) or matched controls (P=0.005). Comparison with PCR-negative controls yielded an odds ratio of 1.42 (95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 1.66), indicating that after the fifth dose of DTaP, the odds of acquiring pertussis increased by an average of 42% per year. CONCLUSIONS: Protection against pertussis waned during the 5 years after the fifth dose of DTaP. (Funded by Kaiser Permanente).