What You Need to Know About Preventing Pertussis

Whooping cough, more formally know as pertussis, is on the rise on the West Coast. A recent NBC news spot focused on this:

NBC Pertussis Story

We think it’s important to take home a couple of facts from this that go beyond just recognizing that this is a serious illness. First of all, pertussis is preventable, and the rising cases are due to decreasing immunization rates in California, Washington, and Oregon. The vaccine for whooping cough is part of the regular recommended vaccine schedule and is given starting at two months of age.

Secondly, the most vulnerable patients are the tiny babies who are either too young to have received any pertussis vaccine or are only old enough to have received a couple of doses. That’s the logic behind vaccinating adolescents and adults as well. Tdap vaccine is given as a booster now for tetanus but also stimulates the immune system to ‘remember’ the childhood pertussis vaccine series. We give it starting at about 11 years old, but it is also strongly recommended for any adult who is planning to be around a small baby. So it should be given to new parents, grandparents, child care workers… anyone who will care for our tiniest patients.

Check with your PCP to see if you have had this crucial vaccine and ask for it if the answer is ‘no’ or ‘we’re not sure’. If your PCP doesn’t offer vaccines to adults, most area pharmacies can provide immunizations as well. Protect that new baby — whether that baby is your child, grandchild, or honorary nephew or niece. Don’t end up as the parent on a news story like this one.