COMMENTARY

The Pertussis Outbreak in California and the Need for Vaccination

Paul A. Offit, MD

Disclosures

September 30, 2010

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Hi, my name is Paul Offit, and I'm talking to you today from the Division of Infection Diseases and the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. What I want to talk about is the pertussis outbreak that is currently raging through the state of California. This outbreak has already caused about 4200 people to suffer from the disease, and in addition has caused 9 babies to die from the disease. All of those babies were less than 3 months of age. All of those babies were too young to be vaccinated; they depended on those around them to be protected. Unfortunately, immunization rates in those around them were woefully low.

The vaccine Tdap [tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis] is recommended for those between 13 and 17 years of age, yet immunization rates in that age group are only 41%. For adults who have not received the pertussis-containing vaccine, that vaccine (Tdap) is also recommended but immunization rates are only about 6%.

To give you an idea of how important it is for adults in the home or adolescents in the home to be vaccinated, I'll tell you a story that happened in our hospital: Within the past couple of years, there was a 2-month-old who came to our hospital with pertussis and died from the disease despite heroic measures to save her life. The child caught the bacteria from the mother who clearly was sick within a couple of weeks of delivering the baby. At the time when the mom delivered, the nurse went into the room and said, "You were recommended to received the Tdap vaccine," and the mother said, "I prefer not to," and the nurse walked out of the room. I think what we have to do is be far more passionate about making sure that the adolescents in the home as well as parents of babies understand the importance of receiving the Tdap vaccine. I think we need to be far more passionate about what can happen when a baby contracts this disease.

Thank you for your attention. My name is Paul Offit. If you want more information about vaccines, vaccine safety or vaccine-preventable diseases, please visit our Website. Thank you.

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