Pertussis Vaccine Needed to Curb Whooping Cough Outbreak in Washington State

In July 20, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report with information that led the State Secretary of Health in Washington to declare Pertussis an epidemic. Nationwide, reported cases have increased dramatically – here are the numbers:


Reported Cases*























Final figures for 2011 have not been totaled, but so far this year there have been more than 18,000 cases, which is twice the number of reported cases this time last year. Individual states have been reporting a rise in their Pertussis rates over last year; states that had no incidences are starting to see reports as they step up preventive measures.

We don’t need to look far to find the source for these outbreaks; Pertussis is on the rise for the same reason that we are seeing outbreaks of measles, mumps, and even polio. People are opting out of the one reliable method of containing or even eradicating these diseases – vaccination.  Out of a strong commitment to a false belief that vaccinations do more harm than good, people are leaving their children unvaccinated. This puts not only their own children in harm’s way, but by compromising herd immunity, they endanger many other innocent people. Infants, too young for vaccinations, are most likely to die from vaccine-preventable diseases, and watching a child die from Whooping Cough is painful and disturbing even if the child is a strange to you.

We are seeing a much more dramatic rise in Pertussis than other vaccine-preventable diseases because the vaccine becomes less effective over time. In today’s world, we all should be getting boosters every 2-5 years, because the herd immunity provided by universal vaccination in childhood has been so severely impacted that anyone who is not up to date with boosters is at risk of contracting -- and spreading it. The additional risk is that since Pertussis is bacterial rather than viral, it could evolve rapidly into a form that is resistant to current vaccines and treatments.

Andrew Wakefield started it all with his paper on the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine and its “link to autism.”  His claims were unsupported, his research was flimsy and easily falsified, and his methods were unethical. All this led to the redaction of the article and the loss of his license to practice medicine anywhere in the world. Brian Deere was instrumental in covering the scandal from beginning to end, and his many articles can be found here. This has not deterred his supporters, and their unfounded fears about the MMR vaccine have expanded to paranoia about all vaccines. They propagate their false ideas widely in a number of ways, and many of the parents who are “opting out” based on the misinformation are putting the lives of their own children and many, many others, without ever knowing it’s all based on a lie.

It’s unlikely that we will be able to convince them to vaccinate using reason and truth, and tightening up legislation requiring immunizations will be an uphill battle. The only things we can do are to make certain that our loved ones and we are kept up to date on all preventive vaccines and boosters, and challenge anti-vaccination ideas whenever we see them. Lives depend on it.