Vaccine news, part 1: Whooping cough

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You may remember the story we published in Dispatch on November 29, about protection from the pertussis vaccine fading over time. Well here is yet another reason to consider going out to get the booster as an adult. A whooping cough epidemic has broken out in Vermont and as of last week, 522 cases of pertussis have been reported across the state. And adults are primarily to blame for the spread.

Although about 90 percent of children in Vermont have been vaccinated, only about eight percent of adults nationwide have received the Tdap vaccine according to the National Health Interview Survey. Furthermore, even among those children who have received the five doses of DTaP between the ages of two months and six years, only about seven of 10 kids are fully protected five years after getting their last dose, underlining the importance of getting the booster shot. State epidemiologist Patty Kelso stresses that the vaccine is safe and is the best way to prevent the spread of this potentially deadly disease.

Dr. Lewis First, chief of pediatrics at Vermont Children s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care, says there are a few extra steps one should take beyond immunization. People should make a point of washing their hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into their sleeves, and keeping kids away from second-hand smoke, which makes it tougher to eradicate the bacteria once it lands in the respiratory passages.