by NPR Staff
California is in the midst of its worst outbreak of whooping cough in a half-century. More than 2,700 cases have been reported so far this year — eight times last year’s number at this point. Seven of the victims, all infants, have died.
And here’s what really worries pediatricians like USC’s Harvey Karp: Doctors thought they wiped out whooping cough when they developed vaccines decades ago.
The disease hits young children hardest, especially ones who are not vaccinated or who have not yet built up full immunity. The prescribed vaccination regimen begins with a shot at two months and continues until children are 5 years old. For many children, it can take that long for complete immunity to develop — and until then, they’re vulnerable.
The California epidemic has raised plenty of questions about the role of vaccination and the increasing numbers of parents who decide not to vaccinate their children. California’s Department of Public Health cites three schools in the state where 80 percent of parents have signed a “personal belief exemption” to keep their children from being vaccinated.