Lorraine Whittenmore works at a day care with infants. She went to a free pertussis vaccination clinic because the Department of Health told her not to return to work until her shot is up to date.
"I didn't want anyone to get it because I might be passing it around," she said.
Though Whittenmore and most adults were vaccinated as children, doctors say the vaccine can wear off over time, putting you at risk not only for catching the highly contagious whooping cough, but of spreading it to those not yet fully protected, like infants.
"If somebody is coughing and sneezing and not using good hand-washing, the next person that comes along can get pertussis," said Amy Pfenning, a clinical nurse manager at Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Pfenning says while most adults feel they can tough out the so-called 100-day cough, their risk of passing it on to infants and young children is high and children aren't fully vaccinated until they're 4-6 years old, which puts them at risk for dangerous symptoms.
"And it affects them severely to the point where a good portion of them have to be hospitalized and certainly in some instances it does lead to death," Pfenning said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pushing a new concept called cocooning, or creating a vaccinated circle of care around the unvaccinated infant or child.
"If mom is protected, that decreases the incidence that baby will get it. And in the community that's why we want to bring dads, and grandmas and babysitters in," Pfenning explained.
Rutland County has seen the biggest jump statewide in new cases over the past six weeks at 52. Caledonia County had 28, Lamoille County had 16 and Addison County had 14. The state's other counties are each reporting fewer than 10 new cases.
Pfenning says the free clinics will be offered monthly until the spike in diagnoses begins to drop. She says you should contact your primary care doctor to see if you've received the Tdap booster. But if you don't have primary care insurance, contact the Department of Health for information on clinics in your area.
Vermont doctors often vaccinate mothers post delivery, but now they're asking expectant mothers to receive their booster at 20 weeks gestation or later as it will begin protecting the infant in utero and because the vaccine is not effective until about two weeks after it's given.
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