Tag Archives: whooping cough

New ideas for an annual update: Older adults and vaccines

Sally James

About Sally James

Sally James (@jamesian) is a Seattle freelance writer who frequently covers biotechnology and research stories for magazines.

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

The season of coughing is around the corner. Ads for flu shots and other vaccinations are getting thicker too. Vaccinations for older adults have new developments this year. A great place to start is this tip sheet from Eileen Beal.

Herd immunity: When writing about vaccines for a certain age group, remember that your audience is not just that group. Communities are protected by the entire immunity of their neighbors and friends. Elders housed in assisted living or nursing homes are at special risk. But college student volunteers, visitors, and grandchildren may need to read your story to avoid unwittingly exposing these older adults. This works backwards also. Older adults who lack up-to-date immunization for whooping cough (pertussis) can expose a newborn when Grandma and Grandpa visit. The booster that many may need is called T-DAP. Continue reading

Whooping cough: Not just a problem for kids

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Maryn McKenna, AHCJ board member and self-proclaimed “most vaccinated person on the planet,” writes about her own bout with whooping cough. She’d had her shots back in the day, but apparently whooping cough immunity conferred by childhood vaccines fades, and anyone over the age of 12 probably needs a booster. vaccinationThis is relevant because, while whooping cough is not generally fatal to adults, it’s easily transmitted to more vulnerable folks. And in California and across the country, it’s on the march and vaccine supplies are limited.

The worst news in this upsetting trend is this: We’re doing it to ourselves. As far as anyone can tell, the rise in pertussis is not due to any change in the organism, or to any mysterious error among the manufacturers who make pertussis vaccines. It’s due to vaccine refusal, to parents turning away from vaccines because they think the vaccines are more harmful than the diseases they prevent — or, more selfishly, because they think the wall of immunity created by other vaccinated children will protect their unimmunized ones.

That wall of immunity, McKenna says, hasn’t been helping the unvaccinated kids, who are 23 times more likely to pick up the disease than their immunized peers.

The Texas Tribune’s Ben Freed learns, through conversations with public health experts, that the “entirely preventable” disease can be stopped with vaccination rates between 80 percent and 85 percent. Unfortunately, adult rates are nowhere close to those numbers, though the state is taking steps to increase adult vaccinations.

California officials are urging people to get vaccinated as that state has now seen a six-fold increase in whooping cough this year.

Vaccine waivers contribute to outbreak

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

In the wake of California’s public health director’s declaration that whooping cough has reached epidemic status, California Watch’s Christina Jewett looks at public health data and where the number of cases are highest.

She finds the most cases in Marin County, one of the state’s most affluent, and in Fresno County, which has “a vulnerable population gripped with child poverty and other ills.”

One contributing factor, according the Marin’s public health officer, is that more than 7 percent of kindergartners start school without vaccinations. Parents there are signing waivers to opt out of immunizations based on their beliefs that vaccinations are dangerous.

Jewett includes links for more information about such fears and about whooping cough. Her piece also includes the county-by-county data on whooping cough in California.

Vaccination gaps raise whooping cough risks

Scott Hensley

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

The evidence keeps piling up to show that kids who don’t get vaccinated carry real risks of catching diseases once thought to have been vanquished.


pertussis
Photomicrograph of Bordetella (Haemophilus) pertussis bacteria from the CDC’s Public Health Image Library.

Researchers found that kids whose parents refused to have them vaccinated against whooping cough were 23 times more likely to contract the illness, which is marked by uncontrollable coughing spells, than those who got the shots.

In a study of kids in a Kaiser Permanente health plan, 12 percent of the unvaccinated kids developed whooping caught compared with 0.5 percent who got the shot. The results appear in the latest issue of Pediatrics.

Before vaccination against whooping cough became common, the disease was a major cause of childhood death. The vaccine is potent but not 100 percent effective. So it’s important to vaccinate all children to create “herd immunity” for the community, Sean O’Leary, an infectious-disease specialist at Children’s Hospital in Denver, told USA Today.

A measles outbreak in San Diego last year provided another reminder of the risk of skipped immunizations. An unvaccinated 7-year-old boy who came down with measles after a trip to Switzerland spread the infection to other unvaccinated children. The CDC reported 11 other cases linked to the boy. About 70 unvaccinated kids had to be quarantined.