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Public Health

Calif. Vaccination Gap And Whooping Cough

With whooping cough now an epidemic in California, the question is why?

Whooping cough is epidemic in California. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Sure, the bacterial infection, which can be lethal for babies, has normal ups and downs. But the year's peak in California is putting the state on a pace to record the biggest problem with the illness in 50 years.

So the Los Angeles Times takes a look at "lackluster immunization rates" in the state, one of 11 that doesn't require middle school kids to get booster shots against whooping cough as recommended the by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Babies can't get their first shot against whooping cough until they turn 2 months, and adequate protection against infection doesn't kick in until the third shot, usually done at 6 months. So infants are vulnerable to infection from people around them. And the protection from childhood immunizations wears off.

In California, only 44 percent of California teens had a booster against pertussis, the Times writes, citing CDC figures. That's better than the national average of about 41 percent, but not as good as places that require teens to get the shot, the paper reports.

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