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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

As pertussis surges, health care worker vaccination lags

As the nation faces the largest outbreak of pertussis in 50 years, the rate of vaccination of health care workers languishes at about 20%.

By mid-July, 18,000 cases had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the largest outbreaks in Washington state and Wisconsin. Infants are especially at risk; so far this year, nine babies have died of pertussis.

Yet vaccination coverage with Tdap, the pertussis booster that also contains tetanus and diphtheria vaccine, has remained low among health care workers. Vaccination is most critical for health care workers who care for infants and pregnant women, but the CDC recommends Tdap vaccination “as soon as feasible” even for health care workers who recently received a tetanus booster.

From 2005 to 2010, only 20.3% of health care workers received the vaccine, according to the National Health Interview Survey.

--Michele Marill