East Hawaii News

Health Officials Launch Pertussis Vaccination Campaign

April 24, 2013, 6:23 PM HST
* Updated April 24, 6:27 PM
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State health officials have launched an educational campaign to inform the public about the need for  immunization against pertussis.

The campaign by the Department of Health, in conjunction with National Infant Immunization Week, is targeting pregnant women, family members and caregivers. It is urging those who will have close contact with newborns and infants to get vaccinated against the disease also known as whooping cough.

“Although parents are doing a good job ensuring their children are vaccinated on-time, we are most concerned about newborns and infants younger than two months because they’re too young to be vaccinated themselves,” said state Health Director Loretta Fuddy. “We are encouraging family members and caregivers to protect themselves to keep from transmitting the disease to our youngest and most vulnerable keiki.”

Health officials say pertussis is very contagious and can cause serious, even fatal illness ― especially in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated.

The officials cited statistics from the US Centers for Disease and Prevention which said more than 41,000 cases of pertussis were provisionally reported across the US last year.

Those included 18 deaths, the majority of which occurred among infants younger than three months of age.

Preliminary data estimate 73 cases of pertussis in Hawaii were reported to DOH in 2012.

In addition to vaccinating those who will come into close contact with infants, pregnant women are now recommended to receive the pertussis vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks into their pregnancy.

“Women who are vaccinated during pregnancy transfer protective antibodies to their unborn infant,” said Dr. Sarah Y. Park, chief of the DOH Disease Outbreak Control Division. “Protection received from the mother during pregnancy can help safeguard newborns and infants until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.”

Women who do not receive the pertussis vaccine during pregnancy should be vaccinated after delivery before they leave the hospital.

“Vaccine protection for pertussis wanes with time so it is important for adolescents and adults to talk to their doctor about a one-time booster dose of pertussis (Tdap) vaccine,” said Ronald Balajadia, head of the department’s Immunization Branch. “We are encouraging everyone to do their part to protect our youngest keiki from this potentially serious disease.”

The vaccine that provides protection against pertussis is administered as a combination vaccine for three diseases: pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus. A series of five doses are given to children beginning at age two months.

According to the 2011 National Immunization Survey, approximately 90% of Hawaii’s children aged 19-35 months were up-to-date on their pertussis vaccination.

Health officials say for more information consult a physician or visit http://hawaii.gov/health/Immunization/index.html.

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