Alabama students will be required to get a whooping cough vaccine this school year. Children ages 11 and up who are entering the sixth grade will have to get the booster shot. Dr. Ritu Chandra, a pediatrician at Ft. Mitchell Clinic, said the vaccine is about 90% effective against cases of whooping cough. She said even though most children get the vaccine when they are younger, the middle school booster keeps them protected even longer.
"The child who's well immunized at 5 years of age starts to show declining immunity over time and gets more and more susceptible to the whooping cough," said Chandra. She said whooping cough is a long standing cough that can last up to six weeks and have costly consequences.
"People can be coughing that hard that they can fracture a rib just from coughing," said Chandra. Alabama Department of Public Health said in 2012, 33% of whooping cough cases were from school aged children.
The number of cases is on the rise in Alabama. In 2010, there were 205 cases, 133 cases in 2011 and 212 cases in 2012. Dr. Chandra said this is a result of better reporting and detection.
"The vaccine is effective. It's doing its job, but it's also increasing the awareness. People are talking more about it, thinking more about it, diagnosing it more, testing it more," said Chandra. The vaccine will help children from spreading it to other students and families members especially babies.
"How terrible would you feel if you gave it to a young little baby who is not immunized yet," said Chandra. She said parents should get their children immunized now. "It's summertime, everybody's got time. Try and seek out that immunization and don't wait unit school starts and the school nurse harasses you," says Chandra.
The vaccine requirement will go up by one grade each year to catch students who might not have gotten the vaccine the previous year. By 2017, all 6th-12th grade Alabama students will be required to have the vaccine.
All students are required to have an updated immunization record and most insurance companies cover the vaccine.
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