All across the country, states are seeing a rise in cases of whooping cough. In response, health officials in Delaware are emphasizing an overlooked aspect of preventing the disease.
For most families, a long list of immunizations is a part of childhood, making everything from measles to chicken pox more rare.
So when health officials nationwide began seeing a rise in the number of reported cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, they took notice.
“Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease. And it’s actually a very, very serious disease. Especially for the younger children,” says Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh, medical director of the Delaware Department of Public Health.
The New England Journal of Medicine just released a study showing that the effectiveness of the current whooping cough vaccine wanes after five years.
The vaccine was revised to its current form when concerns over some rare but severe side effects were raised. However, an adult vaccine has been available since 2005.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it for everyone over the age of 11 — when the childhood series starts to lose its effectiveness.
“And so this relatively new adult vaccine will help to boost the immune system’s memory,” said Maduka-Ezeh. “We’re now more emphatic on it and encouraging people more and more that it’s really, really important for all adults to get this vaccine.”
Most of the deaths that occur from whooping cough are among infants. Maduka-Ezeh says getting adults vaccinated is important to protect very young children, who do not begin to receive the vaccine until they’re 3 months old.