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Low-cost whooping cough vaccine available at Arlington Pharmacy, throughout Snohomish County

ARLINGTON — The Arlington Pharmacy at 540 West Ave. is one of 15 Snohomish County retail pharmacies that will receive whooping cough vaccine from the Snohomish Health District to dispense to low-income uninsured adults throughout the county. None of the participating pharmacies will charge for the cost of the vaccine, but they may charge a fee of up to $15.60 for administering the shot.

These pharmacy vaccinations are part of the Snohomish Health District's two-fold campaign to increase vaccinations that prevent this highly contagious disease, also called pertussis, from infecting babies, who are impacted the most severely because they have no immunity to it. Adults need booster shots because childhood vaccinations wear off over time.

"We are taking a community-wide approach to slowing down this epidemic," said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of the Snohomish Health District. "Building immunity in the adult population of our county will protect infants, the most vulnerable among us."

To promote the free vaccine, the Snohomish Health District campaign has developed special coupons for participants of the Women, Infants, Children nutrition program to give to family and friends who may come into contact with their babies. These coupons encourage low-income uninsured adults to visit a Snohomish Health District clinic or participating pharmacy for the free vaccination. Again, an administration fee of up to $15.60 may apply. These coupons will also be distributed by other organizations that work with low-income populations. If you lose or forget your coupon, you still can get a free shot at a participating pharmacy if you meet the income requirements.

Other low-cost vaccinators are listed on the Snohomish Health District's website at www.snohd.org. Some may charge for the cost of the vaccine and an administration fee, but can discount the cost according to federal guidelines for income level. For example, the Community Health Center of Snohomish County charges an administration fee and part of the cost of the vaccine. However, those with income below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level can receive a discount at the CHC by filling out discounted fee applications.

Whooping cough has been at an epidemic rate in Snohomish County since last summer, and the state Department of Health recently declared a statewide epidemic. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced on May 3 that new supplies of pertussis vaccine would be available to all counties. Snohomish County will begin receiving its first allocation of vaccine within the next two weeks, and intends to distribute it through the volunteer pharmacy system.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is harbored and spread by adults and children, and is particularly harmful to infants, who have no immunity. Children and adults become sick enough to miss school and work for several days, up to two weeks, and the cough can persist for many weeks. All adults and teens need to get a whooping cough booster shot — known as "Tdap" for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — because immunity from childhood vaccine wears off over time. People of all ages need booster shots to maintain their immunity, and most adults aren't up to date on their shots.

As of May 4, the Snohomish Health District has confirmed 270 reports of whooping cough in 2012, although most cases go unreported, especially in adults. Letters notifying parents that their children may have been exposed to the disease have gone out to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as youth sports, daycares, weekend events and other activities.

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