State has new vaccine rules

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Alabama Department of Public Health has announced changes in the state rules governing immunization for preschoolers and students entering sixth grade.

The rules require pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for those children who are in day care or in home daycare centers. This vaccine can prevent diseases that are spread through close contact. It is a shot for infants and toddlers and helps to keep the disease from spreading.

Pneumococcal disease is the main cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States and causes many other problems, such as more than 700 cases of meningitis, about 13,000 blood infections and 5 million ear infections and about 200 deaths a year in children less than 5 years old.

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Another change in the vaccination recommendation is the rule requiring all students entering the sixth grade to have a tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vacine.

The Tdap vaccine will protect adolescents from pertussis and keep them from spreading the disease to siblings, other family members and other students. The vaccine will be given to students entering the sixth grade next year. According to Avis Whitworth, Nursing Supervisor with the Escambia County Health Department, all children in one grade may not be the same age, so the vaccine will be given by grade and not by age.

“We will go up by one higher grade each school year,” Whitworth said. “For example, Tdap will be required for students entering the seventh grade in 2011-2012, eighth grade in 2012-2013, up through the 12th grade in 2016-2017.”

Winkler Sims, director of the immunization Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Pertussis cases have been on the increase lately.

“They have increased in Alabama and one of the age groups with the highest rates nationally is the adolescent group,” Sims said. “Having the requirement for the sixth grade will allow students to more easily track expiration dates on certificates and help identify who needs to be vaccinated.”