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For Release:  March 10, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

New Tdap Vaccine Requirement for 7th Graders Begins This Fall

A new immunization requirement will be in effect this fall to help fight the spread of whooping cough in Oklahoma schools and communities.  All students entering seventh grade will be required to have one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acelluar pertussis vaccine) before the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) believes that the new requirement will help Oklahoma avoid outbreaks of the disease that other parts of the country are experiencing. Thousands of cases of whooping cough have been noted in California and Texas.

“While Oklahoma has been fortunate thus far in avoiding an outbreak of whooping cough, we did see an increase in the number of cases reported in the state last year,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “One hundred seventy cases were reported in 2010 compared to 100 cases in 2009. We are hopeful that this new vaccine requirement will help assure our students, families and communities are protected against this dangerous disease.”

“Pertussis is a potentially deadly infection that can strike persons of any age, but is particularly dangerous for babies,” said Don Blose, chief, OSDH Immunization Service. “Most persons infected with pertussis experience severe coughing fits that may last over a period of months.”

The sound of pertussis is like no other, often marked by a “whoop” made when gasping for breath. Vomiting after coughing fits may also be an indicator of pertussis.

Tdap vaccine is a combination vaccine that provides a booster dose of pertussis (whooping cough) along with the tetanus and diphtheria booster (Td).  Tdap vaccine is routinely recommended for all children at 11-12 years of age.

OSDH officials urge parents of sixth graders to seek vaccination for their children now, rather than waiting for the July and August back-to-school rush.  Children of this age should also receive meningitis and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines, although these vaccines are not currently required for school entry.

There is no grace period allowed for students to comply with this requirement with the exception of military children transferring from another state. Military children may be allowed up to 30 days from the date of enrollment to obtain state required immunizations. All other students must receive the vaccine and present an immunization record before entering the seventh grade.

Tdap vaccine is available from doctors, clinics, and county health departments statewide. For more information about the vaccine, contact your health care provider or the county health department in your area.

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