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posted: 8/30/2012 4:40 AM

Ask doc about whooping cough

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The multiple inaccuracies in the letter published Aug. 25 concerning whooping cough and the pertussis vaccine cannot pass without rebuttal.

The studies referenced by the writer were blatantly misinterpreted. The first study actually advocates increased vaccination as it appeared that immunity appeared to decline faster than had been previously thought. Likewise, the second study concerning "cocooning" was performed to evaluate the effect of a program to increase the vaccination rate of caregivers of infants in high-risk populations to reduce the incidence of pertussis in the infants and was a remarkable success.

No vaccine is 100 percent protective, nor do they claim to be; the success of vaccine programs is based on a concept of herd immunity. That means if enough people are vaccinated, an isolated case of a disease will not have enough susceptible hosts to create an epidemic. If an ever-increasing number of parents decline vaccinations for their children, we will soon see even more outbreaks of diseases that were previously eradicated in the U.S., such as measles, which can cause encephalitis and death in one in a thousand that are infected, and mumps, which can lead to permanent male sterility and meningitis, and, of course, pertussis, which is fatal in about 1 in 100 infants younger than 1 year old who contract it.

Rather than doing their own research as the writer suggests, which often leads to unreliable Internet sources with a hidden agenda, people should talk to their doctor and get reliable information about the benefits and risks of vaccines. Parents of vaccinated children should inquire if their children's playmates have had up-to-date vaccines and consider the risks to their own children if they are exposed. Parents of infants should also insist that those with frequent exposure to their child be up to date with their pertussis vaccination to avoid transmission to the infant.

Dr. Ronald Hirsch


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