Paying the Price –Pertussis

It’s sad when people deny 80 years of progress and decide that scientific information does not meet their particular bias. No, I’m not talking about global warming (though I could be) but rather about the efficacy and utility of vaccination. For whatever reason there are groups who believe that these proven public health interventions cause harm. This despite the eradication of smallpox, the near eradication of polio and the marketed decrease in occurrence and fatalities from measles and pertussis and no good evidence that there is harm from vaccination other than transient occasional transient reactions.

Who pay? Their children.

The confirmation of the death — the sixth pertussis-related death this year in the state — comes a day after the California Department of Public Health expanded criteria for those who should be vaccinated against the highly contagious disease amid what is shaping up to be the worst outbreak in 50 years.

“This expanded set of recommendations is an appropriate response to the epidemic in Los Angeles County and statewide,” Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s public health director, said in a statement. “Vaccination is our best defense against pertussis. This is a disease that is especially dangerous for infants under six months of age, who are not old enough to have received the number of vaccine doses needed to be protected against whooping cough.”

The utility of the vaccine is not only in preventing the disease in the individual vaccinated but in decreasing the prevalence of the bacterium in our society (herd immunity). With less vaccination babies still receiving the initial protection are more likely to be exposed and develop the disease, as in this case.

There is a correlation between lower vaccination rates and the occurrence of pertussis.

Researchers took a global look at how personal-belief waivers drive whooping cough in a 2006 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They found that states – like California – that have easy-to-obtain-vaccine waivers saw a 90 percent higher incidence of whooping cough than other states.


Marin has the state’s highest rate of whooping cough infections at 77 cases per 100,000 residents. And its personal-belief exemption rate is also more than twice the state average, with 7 percent of kindergartners showing up to school with no shots.

Medicynical Note: in this case ignorance is not bliss.

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