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County offers vaccine to battle whooping cough
In response to a rising number of whooping cough cases in Clallam County, the Department of Health and Human Services will hold whooping cough vaccination clinics in Port Angeles and Forks for uninsured adults.
The clinics are free for people 19 years and older who do not have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover vaccinations. Between 4-7 p.m. on Friday, May 18, people can go to the Public Health clinic at 111 E. Third St., Port Angeles, or the Forks clinic at 140 C St. to receive the Tdap vaccination.
Health and Human Services Director Iva Burks said seven cases of confirmed whooping cough have been reported in Clallam County this year. Other counties, including Jefferson County, have seen much higher rates of the highly contagious illness, which can be fatal for babies.
Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky declared the outbreak an epidemic statewide on April 3. So far this year, Washington has seen more than 1,200 confirmed cases of whooping cough. That is 10 times as many as reported during the same time period last year.
“It causes cold-like symptoms, spreads by coughing and sneezing, and can last for weeks,” she said in a May 8 column. “It’s a miserable illness for teens and adults but very serious for babies who often catch it from relatives and other adults. Sadly, it has taken the lives of four Washington babies in the last two years and hospitalized dozens more.”
The epidemic status of the illness is partially due to people choosing not to get vaccinated.
“Our state has the highest school immunization exemption rate in the nation at 6.2 percent, compared with a national average of about 2 percent,” Selecky said. “So, there are pockets of unvaccinated people vulnerable to getting and spreading diseases like measles and whooping cough.”
Dr. Tom Locke, Clallam County health officer, recommends the vaccine for children, parents, grandparents and caregivers. By making sure these groups are vaccinated, it will protect babies that are too young to be vaccinated, he said.
Burk said some people don’t know they need a booster shot for the whooping cough vaccine they received as a child. She encouraged people to call their doctor or the Public Health office to see if they need a booster shot.
For more information, go to www.doh.wa.gov or call Clallam County Public Health at 417-2274.