MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Alabama requires Tdap vaccine for students aged 11 and up

Alabama health officials announced on Tuesday that all students aged 11 and up entering the sixth grade in the state must receive a tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine before the 2013-2014 school year.

The Tdap vaccine helps to protect adolescents from pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough. The number of cases of the contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease is on the rise in Alabama and around the country. There were 205 cases of pertussis in 2010, 133 cases in 2011 and 212 cases in 2012. There were 73 reported pertussis cases during the first six months of 2013.

Students entering seventh, eight and ninth grades this school year who did not receive a Tdap vaccination last year are also required to receive the vaccination. All students attending private and public schools in Alabama must have an up-to-date certificate of immunization.

"Of the 212 reported cases of pertussis in 2012, school-age children represented 33 percent of the cases," Mary McIntyre, the assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention, said. "The sixth through ninth 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 Tdap school requirement will go up by one grade each school year. Tdap will be required for students in sixth through ninth grade for the upcoming year, sixth through 10th grade in 2014-2015 and up through 12th grade in 2016-2017.

Pertussis is a bacterial lung infection that spreads from person-to-person through airborne moisture droplets, usually from sneezes and coughs. a person with pertussis develops a severe cough that can last four to six weeks, if not longer.