Groups team up to promote pertussis vaccinations

They didn’t want the death of their baby to be forgotten.

Tanner Jeffery and Chelsey Charles’ daughter, Kaliah Jeffery, died from whooping cough at Seattle Children’s Hospital last summer. She was 27 days old.

Now, more than 283,000 people in Snohomish County are being sent postcards with an urgent message: Get vaccinated against whooping cough.

The idea for the postcard began about three months ago with Charles and her aunt, Kat Scott of Mukilteo. They hoped a postcard reminder to get the shot would help prevent another family from suffering a similar loss.

Scott knew she couldn’t do it alone. The Snohomish Health District worked with the Snohomish County Medical Society, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, Swedish/Edmonds and the nonprofit Verdant Health Commission to raise $29,000 in donations for the project.

Little Red School House, a nonprofit that assists children from birth to 3 at risk of developmental delays and disabilities, helped oversee the printing and mailing.

“These postcards have meant so much to our family, Chelsey especially,” Scott said. “I’m so excited. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.”

Charles agreed. “It’s like finally people are going to be able to see it,” she said.

Whooping cough was declared a statewide epidemic in April. Cases have been reported in all but eight of the state’s 39 counties.

Children 13 and under have been hit hard by the disease. The highest rates of infection are among babies who haven’t yet had their first birthday, according to the state Department of Health.

Infants can’t get the immunization until they’re about 2 months old. Health officials say the only way to protect them is to have children and adults get the shot to help slow spread of the disease.

In adults, whooping cough symptoms, which include a runny nose, are similar to those of a cold.

“The scary thing about it is you may be carrying the disease and not know it,” said Terry Clark executive director of Little Red Schoolhouse.

“By doing that, you may cause the death of an infant. That’s why it was so important to get the word out to every household.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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