For the 2012-2013 school year, all students entering sixth and ninth grades will be required to provide proof of a dose of the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccination in addition to the school physicals required at these grades, according to the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD).
Numerous outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) have occurred recently among school children in Illinois. Pertussis is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing, and may cause illness that persists for weeks to months.
Pertussis does not typically cause severe illness in healthy students, but can prolong absences from school and extracurricular activities. In addition, pertussis can be transmitted from healthy students to infants and individuals with chronic illnesses, for whom pertussis can be life-threatening.
Protection against pertussis begins to decrease over time. This puts pre-teens, teen-agers and adults at risk for the illness. To address this increase in pertussis disease among older students, one dose of a booster vaccination (called Tdap, containing tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) is required for all students in grades six and nine. However, all students in grades six through 12 should have a record of a dose of Tdap for their own protection.
Mary Weyand, R.N., family health supervisor for WCHD, said: “It’s not too early to protect your child and prepare for the new school year. As we are approaching the end of this school year, I encourage parents to schedule those appointments for the sixth- and ninth-grade physicals and shots. You will be taking steps to keep them healthy and, at the same time, meeting the school entry requirements.”
Some other immunizations that are now also recommended for this age group include the meningococcal vaccine, a second chickenpox shot (if they never had chickenpox disease), and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series.
During flu season, it is also recommended that everyone older than 6 months receive a seasonal flu vaccine.
If a child is on Medicaid, does not have health insurance, or their health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of vaccines, participating physicians or the WCHD can provide needed vaccinations through the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC).
Mike Bacon, WCHD public health administrator, said: “Protecting the health of our youth is one of our most vital priorities. The best way to achieve this is by taking advantage of the health protection benefits of age-appropriate immunizations.”
For more information about the new Tdap vaccination requirement, visit www.wchd.org or call WCHD at either (815) 720-4370 or (815) 720-4000.
From the March 28-April 3, 2012, issue