Northwest protecting its members from ‘whooping cough’

PSEA members know that their union membership provides unparalleled protection in the workplace.  In the Northwestern Region, leadership is now looking to offer yet another level of protection: immunization from pertussis and hepatitis.

Thanks to a cooperative effort between Northwestern Region PSEA and GlaxoSmithKline, the region’s PSEA districts will have the chance to offer all vaccinations against pertussis – commonly known as “whooping cough” – and hepatitis A and B for a dramatically reduced cost: less than half of what the district would spend if employees elected to get the vaccines through primary care physicians.

Based on a successful West Virginia program, in which GSK consulted with the WVEA and NEA, the Northwestern Region program seeks to increase protection among “first responders” – fire, police, EMT, and other emergency professionals.

“Anybody who’s ever worked in schools knows that our teachers, support professionals, and administrators can be placed in a first-responder situation at any moment,” Northwestern Region President Mary Lou DeLuca said. “Whether it’s a child getting sick or being injured, or breaking up a fight, we’re the ones that have to deal with that immediately.

“To GSK’s credit, they realized that we’re at a higher risk not only due to the population we work with, but also because of the role we play. This is a good opportunity for our people to get a little more peace of mind.”

Though many hear the words “whooping cough” and presume it’s something that’s been virtually eradicated, there’s growing concern that it’s making a comeback.
“What the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are finding is that even though children get their last pediatric dose of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) between ages 4 and 6, five years later we see breakthrough cases because of waning immunity to the pertussis component,” GSK Executive Immunization Specialist Thomas Capozziello said. “So, if exposed, they can contract the disease and run the risk of bringing it to schools where employees can contract it. . . . We’ve seen a 34 percent increase of cases in Pennsylvania over the last year.”

Pertussis often requires a months-long recovery and, more seriously, can be fatal to infants.

“This is a great opportunity for our members to protect themselves and their loved ones at no extra cost,” DeLuca said, “and they won’t even have to leave their schools to take advantage of it.”


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