Public health officials say California's lackluster immunization rates could be a factor in the epidemic spread of whooping cough, a bacterial disease expected to take its largest toll in the state in five decades.
California is one of only 11 states that does not require middle school students to receive a booster shot against whooping cough, also known as pertussis, which infects the respiratory system.
The state is the only one in the nation to report such a dramatic surge in pertussis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five newborn babies in California have died so far this year, and at least 910 people are confirmed to have the illness....Public health officials also worry that some parents may decline vaccination because they believe that vaccines cause autism, an idea that has been studied and rejected by scientists.
Dr. Robert Benjamin, deputy health officer for the Alameda County Public Health Department, said the whooping cough epidemic should cause parents to reexamine their decision to skip or delay recommended vaccinations.
"Anyone who has experienced pertussis, either themselves or in their kids, they know this is not a disease to mess with," Benjamin said. "This is a disease that can kill the most vulnerable newborns — not only in their households, but in the households of other people."
- Laura Shumaker's blog;
- A news story in the San Francisco Examiner;
- And a Reuters story about a new study of vaccines and autism.