Heath departments offering free whooping cough shot for adults

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- July is time for back-to-school shots. This July, health departments in Missouri also want adults to get a whooping cough booster shot, so the departments are offering it to them for free.

Whooping cough is also called pertussis. Last year was the worst since the 1950's for cases in the United States, and the disease is still around this year with 84 confirmed cases in Kansas and 187 in Missouri.

Adults don't have bad symptoms, so they often unknowingly pass the disease to little ones who do.

"Adults don't know that they have this disease, and the infants they might come in contact with would be very seriously ill," Barbara Dawson, a nurse with the Clay County Health Department, said.

Adults can prevent the spread by getting a booster shot. Tdap protects against pertussis and also tetanus and diphtheria.

Allyssa Moats, a mother and nursing student, is getting the booster at the Clay County Health Center. During July, the shot is free for adults at many health departments in Missouri.

"I was looking for a great alternative to paying about 50 bucks for my immunization, and called up here and heard they were free for July," Moats said.

The health departments are targeting child care workers, parents and grandparents of young children and students entering health care professions. They are most likely to spread pertussis to babies.

Most adults haven't had a booster shot against pertussis since they entered kindergarten. The protection wanes over the years. It's one reason why whooping cough has made a comeback.

"Used to be every three-to-seven years. Now we're seeing it every year," Dawson said.

But Dawson knows if more adults get protection, fewer children will suffer.

Check with your health department in Missouri for days, times and availability of the free shots. There's no similar free program in Kansas in July, but you can get the vaccine at health departments there, too. Check with yours about the cost.

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