Pertussis vaccine required in schools

All students 11 and older who are entering sixth grade in Alabama schools for the 2011-2012 school year are required to have a tetanus-diptheria-acellular pertussis ( Tdap) vaccine. Students entering the seventh grade this year who did not receive the Tdap vaccination during the 2010-2011 school year also are required to have the vaccination.

The Tdap school requirement will go up by one higher grade each school year. For example, Tdap is required from students entering sixth and seventh grade in 2011-2012, sixth through eighth grade in 2012- 2013, and go up through twelfth grade in 2016-2017.

The Tdap vaccine protects against pertussis (whooping cough), which is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial infection of the lung that 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. This disease has increased alarmingly in the past decade, and adolescents are among those with the highest rates of pertussis cases.

The Alabama Department of Public Health urges individuals to contact private physicians or the local county health department regarding Tdap vaccinations. Blount County Health Department (625-6521) is located at 1001 Lincoln Avenue East, Oneonta.