HOUSTON – The Mississippi State Department of Health is requiring all incoming seventh grade students to receive a Tdap vaccination before beginning the 2012-13 school year.
The decision to make the vaccination required has Mississippi joining 41 other states in the nation who are putting emphasis on protecting children and youth, as well as increasing protection of infants.
“This vaccination has been recommended since 2006 for this age group,” said MDHS Director of Communications, Liz Sharlot. “Many other states have put is in as a requirement and we decided it was time to make it a requirement as well.”
Although vaccinations for pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus are begun in childhood and required to enter school, data has shown that the effectiveness of the vaccines may begin to wane by the pre-teen and adolescent years. Babies don’t begin their series of vaccinations until around two months of age and are not fully protected until a series of vaccinations is completed, leaving them at risk for communicable diseases.
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is spread through sneezing and coughing and is highly contagious during the first weeks of infection. It is often found that babies contract pertussis from caregivers and family members who do not know they have the disease until it is too late.
“Since it affects infants the hardest, we want to protect them by vaccinating those closest to them,” Sharlot said. “By vaccinating adolescents, we hope to decrease the chance of disease in that group and through their association with infants.”
Sharlot said once children are vaccinated, the public tends to forget about the danger of communicable disease, but booster shots can be helpful in keeping diseases out of the public.
“Because we vaccinate well, we forget about these diseases,” Sharlot said. “We get lax and don’t think about them, but, unfortunately, they keep rearing their heads. It’s important to keep our vaccination numbers up and adolescents need to get stronger (booster) shots to keep them from recurring.”
The Tdap vaccine includes a vaccination for pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria.
Parents are encouraged to check with their doctor or healthcare provider on the availability of the Tdap vaccine and will need to present proof of vaccination before children may enter seventh grade. The Chickasaw County Health Departments are currently administering Tdap vaccinations. Contact the local Health Dept. at 456-3737 (Houston) or 447-5492 for availability dates and times for vaccination.