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Women need immunizations, but who could give them? Who?

April 20, 2010 |  6:14 pm

Pertussis - Wait a minute! What if women got at least some of their immunizations at the ob-gyn's office?

- You know, it's crazy enough ... it just might work!

Such is the conclusion from Duke University researchers trying to figure out how to improve immunization rates among women. They set up a pilot program at three North Carolina ob-gyn offices to offer vaccinations against human papillomavirus and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

The program boosted rates of HPV vaccination, but its shining success was for the percentage of women who accepted the so-called Tdap shot. In one office, preliminary data shows, vaccination rates among postpartum patients soared, from 16.7% to 85.7%.

Rates of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, have been on the rise in recent years. As the CDC notes in its information about pertussis: "More than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized." Often, the illness can be traced to siblings or adults who don't even know they're infected.

Here, Medline Plus offers information on diphtheria, tetanus and HPV.

The results shouldn't surprise -- except for the fact that such vaccinations aren't more common. An obstetrician-gynecologist is often the one physician whom female patients see with any regularity.

(Even women not seeking prenatal or postpartum care are diligent about the annual visit. For that, thank the Pap smear. This L.A. Times story, Group Recommends Less-Frequent Pap Tests, calls the test the most successful cancer screen in history. It notes that the test fueled awareness of women's sexual and reproductive health and that it's the reason some women get such preventive medical care.)

Preliminary findings of the women's immunization study were presented Tuesday at the CDC National Immunization Conference.

Here's Duke University Medical Center's news release on the pilot program, A Vaccine Program for Women.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Immunization against pertussis, or whooping cough, wanes over time. A booster is recommended. Credit: Los Angeles Times