KPBS Public Broadcasting San Diego CA August 15, 201
SAN DIEGO — Children across the country may need yet another booster shot — a seventh inoculation — to protect against whooping cough, a disease that is spreading across the nation in what may be the worst epidemic in more than 50 years.
New research confirms the whooping cough vaccine is failing at a higher rate than expected, and scientists are considering adding a seventh dose to the national immunization schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two recent studies have found the majority of people getting sick are up to date with their immunizations.
KPBS and Investigative Newsource foreshadowed these findings in an investigation in 2010 when whooping cough cases had reached epidemic proportions in California, killing 10 babies and sickening some 9,000 people.
The investigation raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, reporting that a majority of the people diagnosed with the illness in San Diego County and across California had been fully immunized against the disease.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has dropped off in California, but it’s scorching a path through states such as Washington and Wisconsin. Some scientists suggest there is a need for a new vaccine that is more effective and lasts longer.
“I think 2010 was a real eye-opener,” said Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at UCLA. “My friends at the department of public health are saying vaccine failures are a much bigger part of this and I agree with them.”
In interviews with KPBS and I-Newsource two years ago, Cherry said he and other scientists attributed the dramatic rise in whooping cough cases in California to increased awareness among physicians, better testing and the fact that outbreaks are cyclical in nature, occurring every about every five years.
Officials at the CDC and the California Department of Public Health also blamed people who weren’t up to date with their immunizations for the spread of the disease.
Today, experts have backed away from some of those assumptions.
“We know there are places around the country where there are large numbers of people who aren’t vaccinated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, during a recent teleconference. “However, we don’t think those exemptors are driving this current wave.”
New studies published in prominent medical journals have called into question the 85 percent efficacy quoted in the vaccine’s package inserts …