Whooping Cough Vaccine Required for Rising 7th Graders

Whooping Cough Vaccine Required for Rising 7th Graders


The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is working to prevent the spread of pertussis, an illness that can be fatal to infants, by requiring older children to get vaccinated.

Beginning next school year students entering the seventh grade must be immunized for pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, with the Tdap vaccine. The shot’s name is short for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis. Many children receive the Tdap vaccines during infancy. The vaccines are designed to jointly boost immunity.

The centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that 11-year-olds receive the Tdap vaccine. Students must present a certificate of immunization to schools obtained from county health departments or from their doctor’s office.

Health officials decided to require the shot because of a national rise in whooping cough. A national immunization survey from 2011 helped spark the requirement. The survey indicated that South Carolina’s Tdap vaccination rate was 58 percent, which was below the national rate of 78 percent.

Whooping cough is especially contagious and symptoms include severe coughing that sounds like a high-pitched breathless gasp. Teens and adults who catch pertussis can rupture blood vessels and get cracked lips. Infants can die.

The need for a two-part immunization stems from the weaker Tdap shot introduced in the 1990s. It eliminated side effects such as fever and seizures that resulted after the first, stronger whole-cell vaccine which was developed in the 1940s. That means the immunity can wear off, making children susceptible to multiple recurrences unless they receive the Tdap. Pertussis differs from chicken pox, another illness for which vaccination is given, in that it offers no lifelong immunity.

Dillon School District Four school officials urge parents not to wait to get their children vaccinated. Letters and reminders have gone out to parents at Dillon Middle School and Lake View High School. Once students have gotten the vaccine, an updated shot record should be taken to the child’s school.District nurses will keep careful records to ensure students will not have to be excluded from school.

Beginning in August of 2013, students will be excluded from school if they have not had the vaccination. The only exception is for those with a religious exemption. Religious exemptions can only issued by the local health department. If parents have questions about the vaccine, they should call and ask to speak to the nurse at their child’s school.


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