01/06/2012 12:56 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST

Need for adult whooping cough vaccinations disputed

The Fraser Health Authority is pushing to get more adults immunized for whooping cough, even though the BC Centre for Disease Control says widespread adult immunization isn't necessary.

On Thursday Fraser Health said 20 people in the Hope area have been diagnosed with whooping cough since August, and it would be offering free vaccines or booster shots -- but only to children and adults who deal with young children.

But Fraser Health's Dr Paul Van Buynder says he'd like that to include any adults throughout the region.

Van Buynder says people in the region are more susceptible to some diseases including whooping cough because of an aversion to vaccines.

"We do have some patches of the Fraser Valley who are less enthusiastic about vaccinations because of local beliefs and religious beliefs and so on," said Van Buynder.

"We think one of the opportunities we have to decrease the transmission is to make sure that as many people as possible are protected."

Ontario and other provinces offer free adult immunization, but Dr. Danuta Skowronski with the BC Centre for Disease Control says that's not necessary here.

"Pertussis incidents in all age groups, including infants, including adults, are at 20 year lows. If there's a change in that, and we're continuing to carefully monitor that, that warrants expansion of the immunization program, then we would do it. We've not had a substantial outbreak of pertussis since 2003," she said.

Skowronski says the immunization program is focussed on infants, because the disease can be deadly for children under the age of three months.