Health Minister Madeline Dubé has turned down a request by New Brunswick pharmacists to be allowed to administer whooping cough vaccines.

Dubé says there are sufficient immunization providers to handle the current outbreak in the province.

But Alistair Bursey, president of the New Brunswick Pharmacists Association, disagrees.

"We are the most successful, convenient and efficient system for getting this out," he said.

"And we also have 200 pharmacists throughout the province who are qualified to give the pertussis vaccine to patients."

On Thursday, pharmacists appealed to the provincial government for the right to be able to administer the vaccine, saying people need more access.

More than half of the 2,000 reported cases of whooping cough in Canada this year have been in New Brunswick, said Bursey.

An average 151 whooping cough cases have been reported monthly this year in New Brunswick.

Due to the outbreak, health officials are recommending that adults in regular contact with children be vaccinated.

More access needed

As it stands, New Brunswickers have to visit their doctor, or local public health office, to get the whooping cough vaccine.

Bursey says with the increase in the number of whooping cough cases in the province, patients should have more options for getting vaccinations.

Given doctors' limited office hours and the fact that many people don't even have a family physician, Bursey contends pharmacists are the obvious solution since they are open evenings, weekends and holidays.

Whooping cough can affect people of any age, but is most severe among young infants.

Many adults develop the infection and pass it along to children, which is why health officials are recommending that adults in regular contact with children also be vaccinated.

The health minister says students in grades seven, eight and nine will also be immunized against pertussis this fall.