An outbreak of pertussis — whooping cough — in Ashland schools serves as a reminder that vaccinating children is important, even if some parents firmly believe otherwise.

School district and county health officials say two more Ashland children have come down with the disease, marked by a severe cough, for a total of six cases so far this school year. That's unfortunate; whooping cough is an unpleasant illness to suffer through.

But the six children who got sick are not the only ones to pay the price of forgoing vaccinations. Pertussis is highly contagious, and under state law, students who had close contact with the infected children must be kept out of school for 21 days as a precaution to avoid spreading the illness further.

In all, 42 exposed students have been kept out of school. That's a lot of missed classes and family disruption that could have been avoided by adhering to the recommended vaccination schedule.

We've said this before, and will say it again: Those most at risk from pertussis are not school-age children, but infants younger than 2 months who are too young to be vaccinated, the elderly and the immune-compromised, who can get very sick and even die from whooping cough.

The vaccine does not guarantee immunity, and there is evidence that its effectiveness declines over time. But it's still better to get the shot than skip it, and those who get pertussis after being vaccinated will have a milder case than those never vaccinated.