R.I. prepares to fight whooping cough

Feb. 26, 2012 at 7:26 AM
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PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Rhode Island Health Department officials said municipalities throughout the state participated in pertussis -- whooping cough -- preparedness drills.

"Cities and towns should be commended for taking these important steps now to make sure they're ready, should they ever have to respond to a public health threat. They are also protecting residents against pertussis, which can be a dangerous disease, especially for babies who are too young for the vaccine," Dr. Michael Fine, director of the department, said in a statement. "The majority of babies with pertussis get it from an adult who was not vaccinated. The Tdap vaccine -- which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis -- has only been available since 2005 so many adults have not been received it."

All adults -- except pregnant women who have not yet reached the 20th weeks of their pregnancies -- who have never received Tdap can participate. It is particularly important that individuals with weakened immune systems to get Tdap shots, Fine added.

"There is no residency requirement for the clinics and health insurance is not required, although anyone who is insured is asked to bring his or her insurance card," Fine said. "Flu vaccine will also be available for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu."

In Rhode Island, Tdap is required for seventh graders. For those age 11 and older immunity, the early childhood pertussis vaccination wanes by late childhood.

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