Parents urged to vaccinate their kids

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

Written by Whitley Kilcrease

While school may be a distant memory during the summer for area youth, parents are being advised to start preparing their children for school early – including scheduling appointments for vaccination boosters.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has released a statement reminding parents about state requirements for the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination.

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Alabama students 11 years of age or older entering the sixth grade, as well as students entering seventh and eighth grades who haven’t received the Tdap vaccine, must be immunized before attending school this fall semester.

Charlotte Gilmore, registered nurse and area immunization manager for ADPH, said the last time the average person received a Tdap immunization was around age four or five and there is a chance that the body’s immunity has waned during this time period.

“It’s just basic public health,” Gilmore said. “The shot is intended to boost immunity from the pertussis vaccine received as a child and decrease the number of pertussis cases across Alabama.”

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection of lungs and spreads from person to person through moisture droplets in the air, such as a cough or sneeze. A severe cough will then develop and last four to six weeks or longer. However, pertussis is contagious to others before the coughing even begins and can be fatal in infants and young children.

According to Gilmore, a 2010 state law mandated that all children 11 or 12 years of age receive Tdap vaccinations before attending school. The information recently issued by ADPH serves as a reminder to parents to contact a personal physician or local health department to schedule an appointment for the vaccine.

Manesha Gandy, pediatric nurse for Southeast Alabama Rural Health Associates, said the Tdap vaccine is an expansion of the tetanus-diphtheria (TD) vaccination children receive and can be given as early as age 10.

“Nine out of 10 of the adult population has not had a Tdap vaccination,” Gandy said.

“They have only received TD shots. That’s why we’ve been seeing commercials advising the older population to be sure to receive the pertussis booster also.”

ADPH reports that the vaccine is to help protect adolescents from pertussis and prevent spreading the disease to family members, other students and school staff.

“Adolescents have one of the highest rates of pertussis cases,” said Winkler Sims, director of the Immunization Division of ADPH. “The sixth through eighth 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.”

According to ADPH, pertussis has increased at an alarming rate in the past decade. In 2012, there were 205 cases reported in Alabama and 133 cases in 2011. There have been 69 reported cases within the first six months of 2012.

Gilmore suggests scheduling an early appointment with a private physician or local health department now, instead of waiting until late July or early August when it can be more difficult to get an appointment.

The Pike County Health Department offers Tdap vaccinations by appointment and advises its good to bring an up-to-date immunization record for first-time visitors. SARHA also offers vaccines with established-care patients, however Urgent Care will only immunize in cases with injuries.

For more information concerning pertussis or vaccinations, visit or