Public Health

In Calif., Doctors Struggle To Provide Whooping Cough Vaccine

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California.

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California. CDC hide caption

itoggle caption CDC

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California. In fact, the director of the California Department of Public Health has declared that the whooping cough outbreak could be the worst in 50 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to avoid contracting whooping cough, or pertussis, is to get vaccinated. But, as Kelley Weiss reports on All Things Considered, that could be a problem for some children.

Many doctors, particularly those in rural areas, are struggling to afford vaccines for their patients. Proposed legislation in California would compel health insurers to fully cover the costs of vaccines to doctors, reports American Medical News, a publication of the American Medical Association.

About half of family doctors and pediatricians who responded to a nationwide survey said they had delayed buying some vaccines for financial reasons, according to data published in Pediatrics in late 2008. A CDC analysis, published in 2009, concludes that most pediatrics practices either just break even or lose money in providing vaccinations.

Now, a little more about whooping cough: The highly contagious disease got its name from the "whooping" noise sufferers make as they're sucking air back into their lungs after a bout of coughing, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Whooping cough was once a common childhood illness — and cause of death — according to the Mayo Clinic. But that changed after people starting using the vaccine.

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