Pharmacists, retail clinicians have role to play in stopping pertussis epidemic

Healthcare professionals can underscore importance of adult Tdap vaccinations

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — With pertussis rising at alarming rates across the country, now is a better time than ever for pharmacists to step in and do their part to quash the epidemic.

(THE NEWS: "CDC: National pertussis rates are on the rise." For the full story, click here.)

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, once was a deadly scourge for children in the United States, but vaccinations have long helped keep it under control. Now, states like Washington are seeing rates reminiscent of the 1940s.

This has prompted efforts to curb the epidemic on the part of health authorities and retail pharmacy chains, but one important link that's often missing is getting adults vaccinated. According to a Harris Interactive survey conducted in May 2012 on behalf of the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, a joint initiative by March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur, most parents aren't asking adults close to their children to get adult whooping cough booster vaccines.

While the survey found that 83% of parents with children ages 2 years and younger considered vaccination important for adults in contact with infants and young children, only 19% reported asking friends and family in close contact with their children to get an adult pertussis vaccination. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 10% of adults reported receiving an adult pertussis vaccine.

This is an area in which pharmacists and retail clinicians can be especially helpful, given their accessibility to the broader community. Because most retail pharmacists can now deliver vaccinations, they can prominently advertise pertussis vaccinations in stores and urge customers to get them. The Harris Interactive poll found that 61% of parents said they would feel awkward asking a family member or caregiver to get an adult pertussis vaccine, but pharmacists carry more authority on matters related to health, and they may have an easier time talking adults into getting vaccinated.

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