Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 11, 2013

Booster shot protects us


— Pertussis is a communicable disease Americans just don’t worry about today. Health professionals begin immunizing infants against pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus with the DPaT vaccine just two months after birth.

But pertussis, better known as whooping cough, made a U.S. comeback in October 2010. Indiana health officials reported infections of the disease at a 24-year high.

The rise in reported whooping cough cases might’ve been due in part to better diagnostic tests, health professionals said at the time. But they also pointed to the number of children who might not have been vaccinated against the disease, as well as the number of teens who fail to get booster shots that keep their immunity from waning.

Researchers studying the 2010 outbreak in California have a new theory, and doctors might want to administer boosters earlier than the standard five to seven years.

In a report released last year, Dr. David Witt of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, Calif., said children between the ages of 8 and 12 were particularly susceptible to whooping cough — even though they had been vaccinated against it.

Researchers poured over the medical records of 132 children who were treated at Kaiser Permanente for whooping cough in 2010. They found the contagion rate among vaccinated children was about 245 per 10,000 for 8- to 12-year-olds. It was 36 per 10,000 for children ages 2 to 7.

Currently, children get their last dose of the whooping cough vaccination series between ages 4 and 6, then a booster at age 11 or 12.

Experts say more research is needed on the study’s findings, and no changes to the established vaccination schedule is imminent. But even if the schedule were adjusted, too many Hoosiers likely would ignore it. Indiana continues to rank among the bottom half of states in infant inoculations.

The Howard County Health Department makes it easy for families to get vaccinations. It hosts weekly children’s immunization clinics, and free or low-cost vaccinations are available to all residents without immunization coverage or health insurance.

For the health of your children and safety of this community, immunize them before they are exposed to a potentially life-threatening disease.