In recent years, Illinois has experienced a resurgence of pertussis (also known as whooping cough). For example, in 2011 Lake County had 175 cases of this illness, while in 2000 it only had 10 cases. To address the growing incidence of pertussis, the state of Illinois has implemented a new vaccination requirement for school entry. For school year 2012-2013, all students entering sixth and ninth grades will be required to provide proof of a dose of the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccination in addition to the school physicals required at these grades.
Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing. It does not typically cause severe illness in healthy immunized students. In addition, pertussis can be transmitted from healthy students to infants and individuals with chronic illnesses, for whom pertussis can be life threatening.
While most children are vaccinated against pertussis when they are infants, protection wanes over time. This puts pre-teens, teenagers and adults at risk for the illness. While the Tdap vaccine booster (containing tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) is required for all students in grades six and nine, it is also recommended for all persons 10 years of age and older for their own protection.
"We are encouraging parents not to wait until the last minute to get the vaccination for their sixth and ninth graders," said Irene Pierce, Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center. "Now is an ideal time to make an appointment. By summer, healthcare providers are traditionally very busy."
Children should visit their regular healthcare provider to get Tdap and other recommended vaccines. Uninsured or under-insured students can receive the vaccine through federally qualified health centers. The Lake County Health Department maintains such health center facilities in Waukegan, North Chicago, Zion, Highland Park and Round Lake Beach. The vaccine is also available at the Health Department's Immunizations Clinic at 2303 Dodge Avenue in Waukegan.
Children entering sixth and ninth grades must show proof of having a Tdap vaccine in order to attend school. Unless a medical or religious exemption has been approved, or a child has an appointment to get the Tdap vaccine during the school year, a child will be subject to exclusion from school on or before October 15, 2012. The following documents will be accepted as proof of the vaccination:
- Note or letter, signed by a physician
- Print-out from provider's electronic medical record system
- Certificate of Child Health Examination specifying exact date of Tdap shot.
"We are asking Lake County residents to partner with us in protecting the health of our youth by getting their children vaccinated," said Pierce. "We have been alarmed by the increasing cases of whooping cough in this county. We would like to see this disease return to its previous low levels but we need the community's help."
For more information on the new Tdap vaccination requirement, please visit: http://lakecountyil.gov/health/pages/tdappage.aspx or call the Health Department's Immunizations Program at: (847) 377-8470.