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Pertussis Outbreaks Hit West, Midwest -- Again
Parents' Refusal to Vaccinate Singled Out as Contributor
By Matt Brown
In April, Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky stated that pertussis had reached epidemic levels in the state, and she called for all eligible children and adults to be vaccinated against the disease. Specifically, she said that children ages 7-10 years who are not fully vaccinated should complete the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine series, and those age 11 or older should receive a tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster.
AAFP Signs On To Letter Denouncing Vaccine 'Myths,' 'Untruths'
The article raised a number of inaccurate concerns, such as claiming that people can "catch" the disease a vaccine is meant to prevent from the vaccine itself. The article's author also resurrected the long-debunked issue of a potential link between vaccines and autism and supported the idea of parents delaying their child's immunizations.
"Parents need accurate, complete information about immunizations -- which they often look for online," the letter said. "So we were astounded when we found an article on a Discovery Company website that perpetuates dangerous myths and untruths about vaccines. We cannot understand how a company that celebrates the latest in scientific achievements would feature an article so inaccurate and wholly biased against science."
The article was taken down soon after the letter was received.
According to Michele Roberts, health promotion and communications section manager for the Washington State Department of Health Immunization and Child Profile Office, the state has one of the highest percentages of parents in the nation who choose to opt out of having their children immunized. In 2011, she said, roughly 6 percent of kindergartners in the state missed one of the required immunizations because a parent chose not to vaccinate.
In addition, the AAFP has adopted provisional recommendations for the use of Tdap vaccine that are consistent with those developed by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and that are intended to stop the spread of disease to young patients who cannot yet receive the vaccine. Among those provisional recommendations are the following:
- adults ages 19 and older who have not received a dose of Tdap vaccine should receive a single dose of the vaccine;
- Tdap vaccine should be administered regardless of the interval since administration of the last tetanus or diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine; and
- adults should receive a Tdap dose if the dose is recommended and no record of previous administration exists.
- vaccine providers should not miss an opportunity to vaccinate eligible patients ages 65 and older and may administer whatever vaccine they have available; and
- when feasible, Boostrix should be used for adults ages 65 and older, although either vaccine product administered to a person in this age group provides protection and is considered valid.