A program through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Centers for Disease Control is intended to help residents prevent diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) by providing vaccines to area residents.
The Callaway and Cole County Health Departments have scheduled a series of free Tdap/pertussis vaccine clinics throughout the counties after receiving free vaccines from the state.
The pertussis vaccine - usually $40 per shot - will be available free of charge in Callaway County.
The dates and locations are:
• July 1, the Holts Summit Civic Center
• July 12, Auxvasse Elementary School
• July 17, the health department.
All three clinics will be conducted from 3-7 p.m.
Vaccines will be available in Cole County for city employees from 10 a.m.-noon July 10 at City Hall and from 1-3 p.m. July 25 at City Hall. The vaccine will be available from 10 a.m.-noon July 18 at the County Commission chambers for county employees, and community members can receive a vaccine from 4-6 p.m. July 18 at the Samaritan Center.
Marie Peoples, director of the Cole County Health Department, said the department is working on scheduling another date for the community and one for Highway Patrol employees.
"Right now, it's not limited. We've already ordered 2,000 doses, and we have the opportunity to get more," CCHD Director Sharon Lynch said. "If we have additional vaccines (after the three clinics), we're going to try to go out to some of the smaller communities in the county."
Lynch said she is excited about being able to offer the shot to area residents.
"It's a great opportunity for us. It's usually so expensive, so it's just great to be able to do something like this for free," Lynch said.
She said the vaccine is particularly important for families with infants and young children, for whom pertussis - which causes severe coughing spells that can lead to difficulty breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep - is most dangerous.
"Pertussis is one of those old diseases that is rearing its ugly head again," Lynch said. "It's just a terrible disease. We call it the 100-day cough because you don't get over it, you just cough and cough and cough."
Lynch said Callaway County has seen several small outbreaks of pertussis in recent years, with 28 identified or suspected cases since May 2011. According to information she provided, the CDC identified 27,550 cases in the U.S. in 2010; 3,350 of those cases were in infants younger than 6 months.
More than half of infants under 1 year that develop pertussis must be hospitalized, one in five develop pneumonia and one in 100 do not recover.
"We're finding more and more that when babies get it, it is from an adult - children are already vaccinated for school. So the best way to protect newborns is for their caregivers to be vaccinated," Lynch said. "It's so important that moms get immunized, and family members who are going to be around the baby."
She said pregnant mothers should be immunized during pregnancy - ideally between the 27th and 36th weeks of gestation - or as soon after the birth as possible. Other family members should be immunized at least two weeks before the birth of the child.