To wipe out whooping cough, create a better vaccine

Saturday, October 2, 2010

As a Californian and a student studying public health, I find the whooping cough resurgence in California extremely troubling ["Whooping cough makes a comeback," Health and Science, Sept. 28].

People who refuse to be vaccinated, though misguided, are easy scapegoats, but they are not the driving force behind this trend. In the short term, more needs to be done to encourage booster vaccines in teens and adults to protect the most vulnerable: infants too young to be vaccinated.

Public information campaigns are a good start, and one hopes we will see better vaccination rates as insurers begin to cover preventive care as part of health reform. But the real problem is that the vaccine is not effective enough. Given the expense of developing and testing vaccines and the facts that the vaccines are used once or a few times in an individual's life and therefore create much less revenue than everyday drugs, there are few incentives for developing a better vaccine.

Our government and private foundations should step in to support research and development of a vaccine that is more effective. Otherwise, needless deaths from this disease will continue.

Miranda Walker, Berkeley, Calif.

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