Officials Urging Parents to Vaccinate Against Whooping Cough


Strollerderby reported that whooping cough has been an epidemic in California since the end of June, but many parents have still not vaccinated their kids.  Marin County, one of the most affluent areas in the golden state, “currently accounts for about 15 percent of all reported whooping cough cases in California,” according to The New York Times

Why?  Parents there tend to be against vaccinating their children.  “Of 58 counties in the state, Marin is ranked seventh — and No. 1 in the Bay Area — in parents’ choosing not to get their children the immunizations required for kindergarten. Some 7 percent of kindergartners in the county had a personal belief exemption in 2009,” the Times reports, and 13 percent of kindergartners had not been vaccinated against whooping cough.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, “is among the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States,” per the CDC.  However, the Times notes that “the vaccine is not a cure-all; it does not always prevent the disease, and booster shots are needed to retain immunity.”  Pertussis cases are on the rise in neighboring Arizona as well, and officials are urging parents and children to get the vaccine or a booster.

We’ve talked a lot about parents who think the CDC’s vaccine schedule needles kids too much and too soon.  But in the event of an epidemic, do these parents have a cultural and social responsibility to vaccinate against the ubiquitous disease?  There is an element of selfishness amongst parents who vaccinate at their own leisure, but is there a way to make the shot schedule work for everyone?

Bay Area resident Danielle Lawson, the mother of an unvaccinated 5 1/2-month-old, says, “I think it would be horrible if my baby got whooping cough.  Honestly, if there was a stand-alone pertussis vaccine, I probably would have given it to my daughter. That’s really the only thing that I think that she’s at risk of contracting in the first two years.”

Why is there no singular pertussis vaccine?  Clearly there is a vocal (and welathy) portion of the population that wants their vaccines a la carte.  Isn’t it better to provide the option for people to pick and choose immunizations rather than ignoring their desires, resulting in completely unvaccinated kids?  If you go to the dermatologist for moisturizer you’re not forced to also get Botox.  Skin treatment for the most part is cosmetic, but anti-vaccine parents also view immunizations as something that is not medically necessary.  Why not meet them halfway?