The Cost of Containing An Epidemic
May 04, 2012

We already know that there is a pertussis epidemic in Washington State. But here’s the update today.
The Governor is tapping into an emergency fund to help contain the epidemic and encourage residents to get vaccinated.
Perhaps this is a prime example of how it can be more costly to address an epidemic of a vaccine preventable disease than to first attempt to minimize the impact of disease through immunizations.
The Seattle Times and various other news sources have provided the following specifics in regards to the Washington state of affairs:

  • Governor Chris Gregoire is making $90,000 in crisis cash available to help strengthen a public awareness campaign about the need for vaccination.
  • The campaign will include radio ads, public service announcements, Facebook and Google ads, and possibly some bus and billboard ads as well.
  • The state has received approval from the federal government to divert federal funds for the purchase of 27,000 doses of vaccine that will be made available to the uninsured.
  • The state has already recorded 1,132 cases of pertussis so far this year, which is about 10 times more than last year.
  • The state has been seeing about 400 cases per month, which is four times more than the threshold for what is considered “epidemic”.
  • The Secretary of Health Mary Selecky and State Senator Maria Cantwell plan to ask the CDC to send investigators and epidemiologists to help the state study and contain the epidemic which will assist state health officials with their response and identify why the epidemic is growing so quickly.

So, what are your thoughts about this?  Do you think it will work, or is it too little, too late? 
Public health departments are typically tight on cash and there are lots of needs they must address.  But with two WA state infants who have previously died in 2011 and an additional 20 infants who have already been hospitalized this year, we can only hope that they can execute a plan that will help to contain this epidemic as quickly as possible.
While there may be some people who will not get vaccinated, no matter how many children die, perhaps there are more who would get vaccinated if they only understood the need for adolescent and adult Tdap boosters.  In Washington, it appears that they are hoping that will be the case.

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