Over the past few years, safety fears have caused some parents to refuse to get their children vaccinated against certain diseases. And some believe failure to do so may have contributed to a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in California that may become the worst 50 years.
Experts say there is no single factor contributing to the rise of pertussis cases. However, in addition to some parents refusing vaccines, a number of doctors aren't offering all the recommended immunizations because of payment issues, American Medical News reports. These two factors may be the main reasons for the resurgence of the disease, experts speculate.
"I'm saddened, but I can't truly say I'm surprised," says Dr. Saad Omer, an assistant professor with Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, as quoted by MSNBC. "We know and we have known for a while that we have these gaps in protection at the local level." Rising cases of the disease also have been reported in Idaho, Texas, Michigan and South Carolina. And Michigan is another state where parents have often refused recommended vaccinations.
"We encounter lots of patients' families who are pretty clear that they're suspicious of vaccines. It's a frustrating issue, because these are often people... who don't understand the possible effects of going without the pertussis or mumps vaccines," Dr. Sumana Reddy, a California physician, tells American Medical News.
Financial challenges of vaccinating patients also may be a factor in the rising pertussis incidence. A December 2008 Pediatrics study that surveyed 597 U.S. pediatricians and family physicians found that 49 percent of the doctors practiced in an office that had delayed purchasing a new vaccine due to financial concerns, American Medical News notes.
Through July 13, 1,496 cases of pertussis were reported in California, a five-fold increase from the same period last year when 304 cases were reported, according to a statement from the state's Department of Health. To combat the outbreak, the department is recommending an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine for anyone 7 years and older who is not fully immunized, including those who are more than 64 years old; women of childbearing age, before, during, or immediately after pregnancy; and other people who have contact with pregnant women or infants.