State Buys More Vaccination as Whooping Cough Epidemic Continues

Babies under two months are too young to get vaccinated and are at high risk for serious illness. This year there have been 173 reported whooping cough cases in infants; 38 of them were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Protection provided by the childhood whooping cough vaccine series wears off over time, so teens and adults need a booster. People whose vaccine protection wears off may get whooping cough, yet usually have less severe symptoms, shorter illnesses, and are less likely to spread the disease to others. Adults who aren’t sure if they’ve had the Tdap booster should check with their health care provider.

While vaccination is the best protection, there are other effective ways to reduce the spread of pertussis. It’s important for anyone with a cough to stay home when they’re sick, wash their hands often, and go to the doctor for a prolonged cough. People diagnosed with whooping cough should stay away from babies, and stay home from work, school, and other activities until they’ve finished five days of antibiotics or until at least three weeks after the cough started.

Because pertussis in its early stages appears similar to a common cold, it’s often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear. Infected people are most contagious during this time, up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Anyone who has been in close contact with someone known to have whooping cough should talk to their health care provider.

Uninsured adults can contact their local health agency to find out where state-supplied vaccine is available. Health care providers can charge up to about $15 to give the vaccine, but this fee can be waived for those who can’t afford it. Most health insurance plans cover whooping cough vaccine for adults and the state provides all vaccine for Washington children younger than 19 years old through the Childhood Vaccine Program. The state has now purchased 41,000 total doses of Tdap for adults for local health agencies and tribes to use in their communities.