Vicky Pizzey, Grand Forks, letter: Vaccine complacency can killComplacency can be defined as a calm, secure and uninformed satisfaction with one’s decisions. But complacency among adults is not a luxury to be afforded when it comes to vaccines.
By: Vicky Pizzey ,
GRAND FORKS — Complacency can be defined as a calm, secure and uninformed satisfaction with one’s decisions. But complacency among adults is not a luxury to be afforded when it comes to vaccines.
Whooping cough or pertussis is a vaccine preventable disease. It’s very important for adults to learn about the pertussis vaccine and the consequences of choosing to not be vaccinated.
Vaccination is one of the most effective public health measures to prevent disease. But vaccination rates among adults remain low. According to the National Health Interview Survey’s 2009 report, fewer than 7 percent of U.S adults are current on their tetanus, diptheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
Plus, only 10 percent of persons with household contact with an infant are Tdap immunized.
Worldwide, pertussis still is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths. How can this be when there has been a pertussis vaccine around since the 1940s?
The pertussis bacteria has not gone away. It lives only in humans and gains a foothold in unvaccinated or undervaccinated people. This provides an active and dangerous pool from which pertussis can spread, causing serious illness or endangering life — especially in infants, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.
Despite being immunized previously, pertussis immunity wanes over time. As a result, the American Committee on Immunization Practices recommends all adults get one dose of the Tdap vaccine.
Pertussis is highly contagious, and transmission occurs when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The pertussis bacteria can live for up to a month on surfaces and can spread when a person touches the bacteria and then touches his or her eye, nose or mouth.
And while symptoms in an adult may be mild, they can create a perfect storm for an infant. Consider the following: an excited grandparent with mild “cold like” symptoms, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a grandbaby, hears the news of the baby’s arrival and rushes off to hold and cuddle the new family member.
Sadly, the unwitting grandparent, while cuddling and gazing adoringly at the baby, passes pertussis on to the new infant. So, while the grandparent may never even realize that he or she had been sick with pertussis, the infant may very well end up seriously ill, hospitalized or even dying from the disease.
Infants have the highest risk for severe and life-threatening complications and death.
All adolescents and adults who have not recently been vaccinated for pertussis should get the Tdap vaccine. I urge Herald readers to give themselves and their loved ones a gift of health by getting vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine.
Pizzey is a graduate student in the family nurse practitioner program at UND.