State Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City joined New York State Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket at Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital on Tuesday as they announced new legislation that requires hospitals to offer pertussis booster shots to new parents and caregivers to protect their babies' health.
The law stopped short of requiring parents to get the vaccine because lawmakers thought it would be going too far.
"We need to gently nudge people along" in getting boosters, Hannon said.
Nassau University Medical Center Spokesperson Shelley Lotenberg said the legislation is important because infants don’t receive the pertussis vaccine until 2 months of age.
"We know that when babies get whooping cough, it is usually transmitted from their parents or caregivers before the infant is fully immunized," she added. "So what this legislation attempts to do is interrupt the cycle of transmission."
Lotenberg added that this is similar to what NUMC does with Influenza vaccine during flu season.
According to Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., who is a specialist in infectious diseases, pertussis was a leading cause of death among infants and children until regular vaccination reduced it to about 1,000 U.S. cases a year by the mid- to late-1970s. However, he said, pertussis is on a comeback, with approximately 27,500 cases reported in the U.S. in 2011.
"This is a preventable disease, based on vaccinations," Stanley said. "It's something we should not have to deal with."
Dr. Shetal Shah, the neonatologist who worked with Hannon and Englebright on the bill, recently published a study in the journal Pediatrics that showed that parents were likely to receive the vaccine when offered it while new mothers were still hospitalized following delivery, leading to improved vaccination rates.
"What we attempted to do with this bill is to break that cycle of transmission," Shah said.
Doctors have said hospitals are not expected to incur significant new costs associated with the law, which takes effect in January.