By Washington Governor Chris Gregoire
Along with Secretary of Health Mary Selecky, I have announced a series of new emergency efforts to help curb the state’s whooping cough epidemic. The bottom line is that adults and teens need to be vaccinated, or get a booster shot, to prevent additional infections. Whooping cough poses a very significant — and possibly fatal — threat to young children and infants. And it is a disease most often passed on by infected adults who do not have up-to-date vaccinations.
Washington state is experiencing its worst whooping cough outbreak since the 1940s. The number of cases has been growing at an alarming rate — this time last year we had about 100 cases of whooping cough, today we have well over 1,100 cases and growing. Because not all cases are reported, the number is likely much higher.
We are stepping up efforts to do one thing — urge Washington teenagers and adults to get vaccinated. We’ve put $300,000 toward increased public awareness and outreach efforts and we are increasing the supply of available vaccinations. I’ve asked Secretary Selecky and the Department of Health to ramp up education efforts and make certain that every citizen, in every corner of the state, is vaccinated. I have authorized use of the Governor’s emergency fund to help make that happen.
Along with our federal partners at the Centers for Disease Control, we are also taking immediate action to provide 27,000 doses of whooping cough vaccinations for uninsured adults. We have already purchased enough vaccination for all children up to age 19.
I’m asking you to check with your medical provider to see if your vaccination is current. If not, please get one soon. One infection in the workplace can unsuspectingly infect the parent of a young child — and, as we’ve seen, that can have disastrous consequences. Thankfully, there have been no infant deaths in 2012 due to whooping cough. But, during the last two years, four babies in Washington died from this totally preventable disease. Already this year, 20 babies have been hospitalized.
Vaccinations are available through your doctor’s office, and many pharmacies and supermarket pharmacies are also offering vaccinations.
Thank you for stepping up to help prevent additional infections.
The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.