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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Joe Turcotte, Group Health Foundation at (206) 448-7301
Mary Ann O'Garro, Thurston County Public Health at (360) 867-2525

Free clinics provide vaccines for children and adults, including whooping cough vaccine

OLYMPIA - Washington's whooping cough epidemic is circulating in Thurston County with dozens more reported cases than in a typical year. Public health officials and the Group Health Foundation have partnered to offer free immunization clinics to help spread vaccine coverage and reduce the spread of diseases, including whooping cough. The free clinics at three locations are part of a larger campaign - Silence Whooping Cough - to educate parents and caretakers in the county about the risks of whooping cough and the need to protect themselves and their families.

"Thurston County is not immune to the whooping cough epidemic. Since the start of this year, over 70 cases have been reported in the county. Last year we had 10 confirmed cases for the whole year," said Dr. Diana Yu Health Officer for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department. "With the start of the school year, now is a great time to make sure children and adults get immunized to stop the spread of whooping cough."

The immunization clinics will offer school-age children all vaccines required for school at no charge, including the DTaP vaccine to protect against whooping cough - also known as pertussis. Parents and caretakers are asked to bring their child's immunization records. The Tdap vaccine, which protects teens and adults against whooping cough, will also be provided to those without access to affordable medical care. The clinics will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the following locations:
  • September 22
  • at Rochester Middle School, 9937 Hwy 12 SW, Rochester, WA 98579
  • September 29
  • at Yelm Middle School, 402 West Yelm Avenue, Yelm, WA 98597
  • October 6
  • at Group Health Olympia Medical Center, 700 Lilly Road NE, Olympia, WA 98506

Infants and children need a series of five DTaP shots between eight weeks and four to six years of age for best protection. The protection provided by the childhood whooping cough vaccine series wears off over time, so everyone age 11 and older needs a whooping cough booster vaccine, called Tdap. Everyone should contact their health care provider to see if their whooping cough vaccines are up-to-date.

"Adults and teens often experience milder symptoms from whooping cough, but the illness is more serious for infants and young children who usually catch it from parents, grandparents, siblings, and caretakers," said Dr. Rebecca Asomaning, a Group Health Olympia Medical Center pediatrician. "If you are unsure of your or your child's vaccination status, ask your health care provider. You can also find more information at SilenceWhoopingCough.org"

Silence Whooping Cough is a public service campaign funded by the Group Health Foundation and developed in partnership with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services and the Washington State Department of Health. The partners are joined by the Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps in offering the clinics. The campaign provides information about whooping cough to the Thurston County community through a website, online banner ads, billboards, social media, and educational materials. One of the goals of the Group Health Foundation is to create better health in Washington communities.

"Pertussis can be prevented, yet more than 4,000 cases have been reported in our state this year, compared to just 400 at this same time last year," said Washington State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. "That's far too many for a disease that can be prevented. As a pediatrician and a mother, I urge all parents and caregivers to get the whooping cough booster shot and ensure your kids are up-to-date on their vaccines. Together, we can make a difference against whooping cough."

Whooping cough affects the lungs and respiratory system and spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. The illness can be especially serious for infants and young children and can cause trouble breathing, eating, drinking, and sleeping, and in some cases, can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.

For more information, visit www.SilenceWhoopingCough.org.

Group Health Foundation
Group Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Group Health Cooperative, a non-profit health system serving more than 628,000 members in Washington state and North Idaho. TheFoundation, with support from its donors, funds grants that promote higher immunization rates in Washington state, support children's health education, and enable medical teams at Group Health to identify and test care improvements. Please visit the virtual newsroom on our Web site, www.ghc.org under "Newsroom."



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3