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New York Hospitals Offering Whooping Cough Vaccine For Parents Of Newborns

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Whooping cough is making a comeback.

There have been more than 300 cases of the potentially deadly infection on Long Island this year and New York is near the top of the list for infection rates nationwide.

Stony Brook Children's Hospital is providing a free way for parents to protect children from the potentially lethal infection.

The hospital proposed the idea to lawmakers. So starting in January, hospitals in New York state will be required to offer the whooping cough vaccine to new parents before their babies go home.

Jesse Atkins agreed to get vaccinated to protect his new baby.

"I think it's a great idea and I just recommend it for anyone who has a child," Atkins told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.

But whooping cough, also called pertussis, was a leading killer in the 1940's. While it was nearly eradicated in the 1970's, it's making a comeback with more than 25,000 cases last year.

"This may be the worst year for whooping cough in the past five decades," said Samuel Stanley, President of Stony Brook University.

Most children are vaccinated early in life, but parents often let their boosters lapse. That's how the disease often spreads.

"Eighty percent of the time, usually a parent or a grandparent, was the person who got the disease and brought it to the child," said Dr. Shetal Shah, of Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

The mother of a little boy born prematurely told CBS 2's Gusoff the decision to was a no-brainer.

"They gave it to us for free and right away. There was no question about it," Jill Perlstein said.

So now, every new parent or caregiver will take home more than a bundle of joy from a hospital in New York state. They will also have the opportunity to take home protection from whooping cough that lasts up to a decade.

It will be up to each individual hospital to decide if the vaccine will be offered free of charge to parents.

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