The new school year is right around the corner. As parents prepare for back to school and plan doctor visits they should know there is a vaccine that students entering sixth and ninth grade must have.
Students entering sixth and ninth grade must provide proof that they have received a pertussis vaccination, according to the DuPage County Health Department.
Health Officials in DuPage County along with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition are urging parents to make sure students immunizations are up to date before school begins.
Pertussis is easily transmittable through coughing and sneezing and can cause an illness that persists for weeks to months, according to the health department. In Illinois in recent years there have been a number of outbreaks.
During grade school protection against pertussis begins to wear off, leaving pre-teens, teenagers and adults at risk for the illness, according to the health department. To address the increase in pertussis cases among older students, a booster vaccination, called Tdap, is recommended for all students in grades six through 12.
The new immunization requirement comes after a significant increase in whooping cough cases across the country over the last three years, according to a news release from the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition.
In Illinois, there have been 1,048 cases of whooping cough reported through July 21, compared to 435 reported cases during the same time period in 2011. According to the CDC, Illinois ranks fifth among all states in terms of the number of pertussis cases reported this year.
"We've made tremendous strides over the last several decades in reducing the number of preventable deaths through the widespread use of vaccines," said Dr. Kay Saving, president, American Academy of Pediatrics-Illinois Chapter. "But the recent increase in whooping cough cases proves that parents can't let their guard down when it comes to their child's immunization schedules. Back to school also means back to the doctor to ensure your entire family remains healthy and protected."
Students entering sixth and ninth grades without one of the following will be subject to exclusion:
- Proof of Tdap vaccination
- An approved medical or religious exemption on file with the school
Many health providers, pharmacies and health departments provide the Tdap vaccination and parents are encouraged to check with their child’s health provider to determine if a child’s vaccinations are up to date. Adolescents and adults should receive a single Tdap vaccine at 11 years of age or older.
For uninsured and underinsured patients, many providers participate in the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve Medicaid-eligible children younger than 19 years of age.
Anyone who may need assistance may check with the DuPage County Health Department for resources for getting the Tdap vaccination.