SAN DIEGO — A KPBS investigation has found that nearly two out of three people diagnosed with whooping cough in San Diego County this year were fully immunized. California is in the midst of the worst whooping cough epidemic in 50 years. The numbers raise questions about how well the vaccine works. Whooping cough, or pertussis is a contagious upper respiratory illness that in adults can mimic a bad cold. But in babies it can be deadly. Eight babies have died in California from whooping cough since January...
UTD = up-to-date with age appropriate pertussis vaccinations by immunization record review or parent report
NUTD = not up-to-date with age appropriate pertussis vaccinations
PBE = personal belief exemption reported by parent and/or physician
UNK = unknown
TDAP DUE = any child 11-18 years old who had only 5 pertussis containing immunizations with no Tdap noted (source: San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency)
“I think we have to be honest and try to find out what’s happening.” Dr. Fritz Mooi says, of the Netherlands Center for Infectious Diseases Control. Mooi believes researchers need to develop new vaccines. But he says the idea that the disease may be mutating and out-smarting current vaccines has been ignored by many public health officials “That’s not good science and that’s not good public health.” When KPBS asked the CDC why it believed so many vaccinated people in San Diego county contracted whooping cough - nearly two out of three people - the agency provided a written statement. The CDC says statistically, higher vaccination rates increases the probability a sick person will have been immunized.
Vaccines for pertussis are very effective, but no vaccine protects forever in 100 percent of those vaccinated. Protection wanes over time, which is the reason for intermittent “booster doses.” High vaccination coverage in communities and in families also protects others, including those who are too young to be vaccinated or whose immunity from vaccination has waned. CA is experiencing a significant increase in pertussis circulating in the community. That disease pressure is causing more fully vaccinated and recently vaccinated people to become infected than in a typical year. It does not mean the vaccine is not working. Rather, the higher the vaccine coverage, the higher the proportion of cases who have been vaccinated. This is commonly misinterpreted to mean that a vaccine is not working, when in fact it means that coverage is high.