Vaccines needed for ‘back to school’

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, July 21, 2011

When parents are preparing send their children off for another year of school, there is a new vaccine that will have to be added to previous vaccinations.
Parents should be aware that this vaccination will be required before children enter school.
“Pertussis, or more commonly known as whooping cough, is very dangerous to small babies,” said Dr Marsha Raulerson, pediatric physician. “Babies are given the vaccine at intervals until they reach the age of six months, and until that time, they are susceptible to Pertussis. The disease is most noted in adults as a very bad cough, and sometimes is not diagnosed as Pertussis. In a baby there is the cough, but there is also a very high fever, making it very dangerous to small babies.”
Pertussis is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease which has increased alarmingly in the past decade. To help provide protection, all students 11 years of age and older entering the sixth grade in Alabama schools during the 2011-2012 school year are required to have a tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
Students entering the seventh grade during the 2011-2012 school year who did not receive the Tdap vaccination during the 2010-2011 school year are required to have the vaccination.
All students including those 11 years of age or older entering the sixth and seventh grades are required to have an up-to-date certificate of immunization.
The Tdap vaccine helps to protect adolescents from pertussis which will prevent spreading the disease to family members, other students and school staff. The Tdap school requirement will go up by one higher grade each school year. For example, Tdap is required for students entering sixth and seventh grade in 2011-2012, sixth through eighth grade in 2012-2013, and up through twelfth grade in 2016-2017.
“Adolescents have one of the highest rates of pertussis cases,” said Winkler Sims, Director of the Immunization Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “The sixth and seventh grade requirement for students age 11 or older will protect students from pertussis at the adolescent age in school and through the remainder of their school experience.”
The number of reported pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Alabama in all ages continues to be of concern with 314 cases in 2009 and 205 cases in 2010. During the first six months of 2011 there have been 76 reported cases of pertussis in the state.
Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the lungs and spreads from person to person through moisture droplets in the air, probably from coughs or sneezes. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer.
Contact your private physician or local county health department regarding Tdap vaccinations.
The local Escambia County Health Department can get the blue slips up to date. Contact the office at 867-5765, and set up an appointment or for more information.