Get a boost, says Fraser Health
Fraser Health is again urging parents to ensure their children — as well as themselves — are up-to-date on their immunizations.
Last week marked National Immunization Week, prompting the health authority to remind people of all ages of the importance of vaccines, particularly as a recent whooping cough outbreak continues to spread in the region.
Since early December there have been more than 268 suspected or confirmed cases of whooping cough, also called pertussis, though the true number is suspected to be much greater. Cases have been reported in most Fraser Health communities.
The disease causes severe coughing and can last for months; it can be very serious in young children and infants, who have small airways. More than half of infants under one year old who get whooping cough must be hospitalized, and in some cases it is life threatening.
Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward said whooping cough outbreaks tend to be cyclical in B.C. and are related to the "absence of adult immunity."
The pertussis vaccine is administered several times over a child's life (at two, four, six and 18 months of age, and again for those aged four to six), but the childhood vaccine fades over time and pre-teens, teens and adults should be getting a booster vaccine, particularly if there is an infant in the home.
"There are large populations of adults without any immunity," Thorpe-Dorward said. And since whooping cough is highly contagious, it spreads quickly when people aren't protected.
Dr. Paul Van Buynder, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, said adults should be getting a tetanus and pertussis booster shot every 10 years, as well as the annual flu vaccine.
"We're working with the public health staff, family doctors and pharmacists to try and put the information to them so when you see your doctor or pharmacist for other reasons," they can remind you to get the booster vaccines, he added.
Fraser Health has compiled a number of informative links (visit immunizebc.ca) for people concerned about the safety of immunizing themselves and their children, noting the main fear — a link between vaccines and autism — originated with a now widely debunked study.
The health authority emphasized that vaccine-preventable diseases can be deadly, and that people should not become complacent because many of the diseases have largely been eradicated.
"If we stop immunizing, the diseases will come back," noted a Fraser Health release. "In some cases, these diseases are just a plane ride away."
• Free whooping cough vaccines are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies for adults and youth who haven't had a booster in the past five years and who are in regular contact with young children. Visit www.fraserhealth.ca/whoopingcough for details.