According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of whooping cough cases in the United States could reach a 50-year high in 2012. The CDC’s forecast is based on the fact that, as of July 2012, twice as many cases of whooping cough – or pertussis as it’s referred to clinically – had been reported to the CDC thus far this year as compared to the same point in 2011. The CDC says that more than 22,000 cases of whooping cough – as well as 13 deaths – have been reported to the CDC through Aug. 11, 2012. In light of this disturbing and potentially deadly trend, Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is working to increase awareness regarding the importance of infants, children, adolescents and adults getting a whooping cough vaccine or booster shot. “Whooping cough is a highly contagious, potentially fatal disease that can cause violent coughing spasms for up to 10 weeks,” explains Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc. “That’s why Health Net is committed to educating the public about the importance of getting the whooping cough vaccination.” Scheff added, “The CDC reports that unvaccinated children have eight times the risk for contracting whooping cough than do those children who receive the vaccine. Also, when vaccinated children do come down with the disease, not only are their symptoms milder, but they are less likely to pass their infection onto others.” Scheff went on to say that, in California, receipt of the vaccine is legally required for students in the seventh through twelfth grades. As a result of a law passed in September 2010, students in California who are entering the seventh grade, as well as transfer students who are entering the eighth through twelfth grades, must show proof of having received a whooping cough booster shot.
Spreading the whooping cough word onlineIn anticipation of the projected rise in whooping cough cases, Health Net helped to create an innovative, social-media driven campaign to educate teens about the importance of getting vaccinated. The campaign, which is targeted toward teens ages 13 through 18 and can be accessed nationwide at http://www.t2x.me/, was launched last year as part of T2X, a health-literacy, social media program that was created through a partnership between Health Net, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and EPG Technologies. “Our whooping cough educational campaign is designed not only to inform teens about the importance of getting vaccinated, but also to help them feel comfortable about actually getting the vaccine,” explains Nancy Wongvipat Kalev, MPH, Health Net’s director of Health Education and Cultural Linguistic Services. “As a final component of the campaign,” she adds, “we provide teens with tools to take the step of making a vaccination appointment.” The whooping cough campaign – which features whooping cough facts, quizzes and videos – utilizes a variety of digital platforms to engage and inform teens about this pressing medical issue. Feedback received thus far from teens who’ve explored the campaign’s multi-faceted components indicates that their knowledge about whooping cough has increased, and they’re more positively inclined to get the vaccine. Whooping cough vaccination recommendations The CDC notes that there are two types of whooping cough vaccines – DTaP for infants and children – and Tdap for adolescents and adults. The CDC points out that Tdap is particularly important for family members residing with an infant and for those who provide care for infants. Following is a brief summary of the CDC’s whooping cough vaccination recommendations:
- Infants and children should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine: one each at ages 2, 4 and 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years. All five doses are needed for maximum protection. Children ages 7 through 10 who are not fully vaccinated with DTaP should receive a dose of Tdap instead of waiting for the 11-to-12-year-old checkup.
- Adolescents should receive the Tdap vaccine at their regular checkup at age 11 or 12. If teenagers (13 through 18 years) missed getting the Tdap vaccine, parents should ask their health care provider about getting it for them now.
- Adults 19 years and older, who have not previously received a Tdap vaccine, should get a one-time dose of Tdap in place of the Td booster they’re recommended to receive every 10 years. There’s no need to wait until you are due for your Td booster. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark since the last Td booster. Receiving Tdap may be especially important during a community outbreak and/or if caring for an infant. Adults should consult with their health care provider about what’s best for their specific situation.
- Pregnant women who have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap should get one dose of Tdap during the third trimester or late in the second trimester, or as soon as possible after delivery or before leaving the delivery center.
About Health NetHealth Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net, through its subsidiaries, provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.5 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net’s behavioral health services subsidiary, Managed Health Network, Inc., provides behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs to approximately 4.8 million individuals, including Health Net’s own health plan members. Health Net’s subsidiaries also offer managed health care products related to prescription drugs, and offer managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs. For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at www.healthnet.com.