Demand for pertussis vaccines swamping county |

Demand for pertussis vaccines swamping county

Nevada County’s public health officials are struggling to keep up with the high demand for whooping cough vaccinations as an epidemic continues to affect Californians.

That’s in part because local physicians may not be making the vaccine available to their regular patients, and because of the vaccines’ lower cost at the public clinics, county health officials said this week.

“Some of the smaller private practices don’t offer it because of the expense” of keeping the pertussis vaccine refrigerated, Public Health Director Dr. Karen Milman in a presentation to the county’s Board of Supervisors this week. “Some people are coming in because they think our vaccine is less expensive than the one they could get by going to their physician.

“We want people with insurance to consider their own physician first before coming to us,” she added.

Free vaccination clinics held over the last few weeks by the Nevada County Public Health Department have been heavily attended, said Milman. More than 400 people attended one three-hour clinic staffed by five nurses.

Each nurse vaccinated more than 26 people per hour, she said.

The clinics are generally meant for lower-income and uninsured residents, Milman said.

Some who are attending the pertussis vaccine clinics were insured, but their primary care physicians may not be offering the vaccine, she said.

Still others are crowding the county’s mobile services van, which offers adult immunizations for $15, Milman added. Children’s immunizations are $10.

Dr. Sarah Woerner, a pediatrician with Sierra Care Physicians, is planning on circulating a questionnaire to local doctors to find out how many are carrying the pertussis vaccine and the reasons some offices don’t carry it.

“In the realm of vaccines, it’s not a very expensive one to purchase,” she said. “I think everybody should do their share to vaccinate.”

Nine infants statewide have died from the disease caused by the pertussis bacteria this year, and more than 4,200 cases have been reported statewide, according to state health officials.

The disease is characterized by a gradually worsening cough that can become fatal in the very young.

Nevada County has seen 11 laboratory-confirmed cases, and many more cases are suspected, Milman added.

Woerner sees about one suspected case each week, she said.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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