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Refusing Shots Puts Kids at Higher Risk for Whooping Cough

Parents who reject immunization put children, community in jeopardy, study finds

TUESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to children who are immunized against whooping cough, those who aren't vaccinated are 23 times more likely to get the infection -- a finding that shows the danger faced by children whose parents refuse to have their children vaccinated.

That's the conclusion of researchers who reviewed the health records of Kaiser Permanente Colorado members aged 2 months to 18 years between 1996 and 2007, and identified 156 cases of whooping cough (pertussis).

"This study helps dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine preventable diseases," lead author Jason Glanz, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research, said in a Kaiser news release.

"It also shows that the decision to refuse immunizations could have important ramifications for the health of the entire community. Based on our analysis, we found that one in 10 additional whooping cough infections could have been prevented by immunization," Glanz said.

The study is published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

Most children are vaccinated, but the number of parents refusing to have their children vaccinated appears to be increasing in the United States, according to researchers. This study didn't examine the reasons why parents refused to have children vaccinated and also didn't evaluate the side effects of vaccines.

In 1976, there were just over 1,000 reported cases of whooping cough in the United States. That number climbed to almost 26,000 cases in 2004. Between 2000 and 2005, 140 whooping cough deaths were reported in the United States, according to background information in the news release.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about whooping cough.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, May 26, 2009

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