The Latino population in Santa Cruz County, California has significantly less incidence of whooping cough, and is more likely to vaccinate against the infection compared with other population groups.
California declared a whooping cough “epidemic” last month; so far, the state has recorded 5,393 cases of the disease.
“One thing you will find pretty much across the state is that Latinos tend to have the highest vaccination rates,” deputy director of the California Department of Public Health, Dr. Gil Chavez, told the San Jose Mercury News. “They do really well when it comes to vaccinating their children.”
According to the report, of the 70 cases of whooping cough reported in Santa Cruz County this year, 45 of those infected are white, and 25 are Latino. The county is 60 percent white, and only about a third Latino.
Dr. Chavez explained that Latino vaccination rates are higher because they have a “culture of vaccination” that many brought with them from their native countries. According to a 2010-2011 survey conducted by Dr. Chavez, by the age of two, 72.7 percent of Latino toddlers have been immunized, compared with just 68.6 percent of white toddlers.
Kindergarten immunization statistics from Santa Cruz County support Dr. Chavez’s research; according to the report, in the 2013-14 school year, “heavily Latino” schools had immunization rates over 90 percent, while schools comprised of mostly white toddlers had rates “far below that.”
However, Latino babies under one year of age are particularly susceptible to the infection; in 2010, during the state’s worst epidemic of whooping cough in recent memory, nine of the 10 babies who died of the disease were Latino. The Mercury News notes that this year, cases among Latino babies are “soaring.”
“They usually come from close-knit family units where they can live with unvaccinated aunts, uncles, and grandparents,” pediatrician Maria Elevado said in the report.
Despite the relatively high vaccination rate among the statewide population, director of California Department of Public Health, Dr. Ron Chapman, said in an earlier Mercury News report that getting a vaccine or contracting the illness does not mean the incidence cannot reoccur.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis (whooping cough) offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Chapman said. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
A UPI report from June reinforces Dr. Chapman’s statement; of the 621 cases of whooping cough reported in San Diego County between January and June of this year, 527 of those infected, or 85 percent, were up to date with their whooping cough immunizations.