Pertussis Epidemic in California: Free Vaccines for Children
State health officials in California have declared an epidemic of pertussis, also known as whopping cough. The amounts of reported cases of whooping cough have increased 5x compared to last year and include six deaths and over 100 hospitalizations.
Pertussis is a highly-contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system first recognized in 1578. A vaccine was developed in the 1930s at a time when the number one cause of death in infants was whooping cough. Perhaps due to the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, whooping cough (and other vaccine-preventable diseases) is on the rise. A vaccine does not rid the harmful bacteria from the environment; it only helps to immunize people against the bacteria. It is impossible to eradicate bacteria that exist on earth.
Early symptoms are comparable to the common cold: low-grade fever; dry cough; runny nose. Within a few days, coughing is more severe and long-lasting, leaving someone suffering from pertussis gasping or “whooping” for breath. The fits of violent coughing can cause broken blood vessels in the face, eyes, and brain and also cause hernias, fractured ribs, and vomiting. The main cause for concern in infants is respiratory arrest due to lack of oxygen.
Some complications of whooping cough include epilepsy, pneumonia, and brain damage.
Babies 6 months old or less are more susceptible to whooping cough, as well as infants and toddlers who are not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.
The recommended vaccine is DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) at two, four, six, fifteen months old and a booster between the ages of 4-6. The link to the above CDC recommendations, updated as of August of this year, can be found here.
Since declaring an epidemic, California is stressing that everyone receive a booster, especially children in middle school, pregnant women, and anyone who is around children often.
Children 18 years and younger who are uninsured can receive free vaccinations of all types, including pertussis, from a medical provider that participates in a program called Vaccines for Children (VFC). Every state in the US has this program available. Though the vaccination is free, some offices may charge an administration fee ranging from $12.00-$18.00.
To locate a medical provider near you that participates in the VFC program, you can call the program directly at 877-243-8832. You can also search on the internet, link here. Simply enter your zip code and find the nearest medical facility that participates in the program. You can call them to find out if they charge an administration fee and then set up an appointment to get your child vaccinated.
What Might Be Contributing to the Outbreak? AMA and CDC Information
- amednews: Pertussis epidemic in California linked to vaccination gaps :: July 26, 2010 ... American
Some doctors in the state say parents not vaccinating children, and physicians limiting the immunizations they administer because of payment issues, contributed to the outbreak.
- Toxin Production and Pertussis Resurgence | CDC EID
The reemergence of pertussis has been attributed to various factors, including increased awareness, improved diagnostics, decreased vaccination coverage, suboptimal vaccines, waning vaccine-induced immunity, and pathogen adaptation.
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