As the whooping cough epidemic continues across the state, local health agencies are opening their doors to offer free vaccinations against the disease.
State health officials report 2,092 cases of whooping cough from Jan. 1 through June 5. That's a rate of more than 30 cases per 100,000 people. During the same 22 weeks of 2011, state officials reported 164 cases.
In Clark County, health officials have confirmed 153 cases of whooping cough since Jan. 1. During the same time period last year, health officials reported only 25 cases.
In an effort to contain the spread of the disease, Clark County Public Health and Kaiser Permanente are offering free whooping cough vaccinations to uninsured and underinsured adults and children.
Vaccination clinics will be held every Thursday and Friday evening in June. The clinics will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park Medical Office, 12607 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. The office will also host a Saturday clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 16.
Last month, the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington held an immunization clinic for low-income, uninsured adults. Typically, the clinic does not provide adult immunizations. The Free Clinic does, however, offer child immunization clinics at 5 p.m. on the first, second and third Wednesdays of every month.
"The uninsured are at particular risk of infection because many are not adequately vaccinated against whooping cough and other infectious diseases," said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an illness spread through respiratory secretions such as coughing and sneezing. The illness is particularly dangerous, and
potentially deadly, for infants, who can develop serious complications such as pneumonia and brain inflammation. Immunization of others protects infants who are too young to receive the vaccine, according to health officials.
"We are especially concerned about babies because they are just beginning their immunization series," said Dr. Diana Antoniskis, a Kaiser infectious disease specialist. "Babies most often catch whooping cough from a family member or caregiver, and the infection can be life-threatening. It's essential that parents, teachers, health care workers and others who are in close contact with infants get vaccinated."
The state recommends children receive five doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine, commonly known as DTaP, before age 7. Adolescents (ages 11 to 18) and adults (ages 19 to 64) should receive a tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis booster, commonly known as Tdap, according to state recommendations.