State health officials say turnout was strong at a series of clinics held Wednesday to vaccinate Vermonters for Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.
The clinics are an effort to stop the spread of the illness which officials say has reached epidemic levels in Vermont.
The vaccines were given at 12 clinics set up by the Vermont Department of Health.
In Barre, Nurse Linda Seel tended to 88 year old retired physician Randall Travis of Waterbury who hasn’t had a whooping cough shot in more than 80 years.
Travis is one example of the individual the health department hoped would turn out Wednesday.
Health officials say for those who were typically vaccinated when they were young, the vaccine has lost its effectiveness.
They say that’s especially true for a newer vaccine introduced in the 1990s. The highly contagious nature of the illness may also explain why 2/3 of the whooping cough cases in Vermont are among teenagers.
As of last week 568 cases had been reported in Vermont, which is by far the highest number in decades.
Health commissioner Doctor Harry Chen says it’s critical for the state to take additional steps to check the spread of an illness that has serious health effects, particularly for infants and young children.
"We’ve been for the past year trying to deal with this epidemic by the standard methods which is vaccinating kids and treating contacts. It hasn’t been enough," says Chen.
Chen hopes the benefits of the whooping cough clinics will be reflected in a declining number of cases in the coming months.
"The vaccine takes effect fairly rapidly so we should be able to see that within the next couple months in terms of how the numbers of cases are going," he says.
Chen says the evidence shows that whooping cough spreads more slowly when vaccinations are kept current and there are few severe cases.