Students lag in getting required vaccine

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Less than 10 percent of Suffolk’s rising sixth-graders have shown proof of their Tdap immunizations, which are mandatory for students starting middle school in the fall.

“Notes are slowly trickling in,” Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools said. “It’s always slow, but this immunization has been a requirement for several years now.”

Bradshaw said the city has 1,113 rising sixth-grade students, and of that number only 98 students have sent in documentation proving they have had their immunizations.

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The Tdap vaccine helps protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

According to the Immunization Action Coalition, bacteria cause tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, but only diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person (tetanus, instead, enters the body through cuts or wounds).

The Tdap vaccine for adolescents and adults was licensed in 2005 – making it the first that would protect against all three of the diseases. Prior to that, children younger than 7 were given the DTaP vaccine.

Since children’s immunities can fade over time, it is important that people receive booster doses over time to protect themselves from the diseases.

In 2006, the General Assembly passed a law that required all sixth graders to have their Tdap booster shots before they started school in September.

The 2009-2010 school year begins in seven weeks.

Staff members at Suffolk Public Schools want to remind parents that students who have not submitted any proof of the Tdap shot will not be able to begin school in September.

Parents need to review their children’s shot records, and obtain the immunizations for them as soon as possible.

The Tdap immunization can be administered by a family doctor or at the local health department, but parents must provide a doctor’s statement to the school nurse. This information will then become a part of the student’s health folder.

There is no fee for the Tdap immunization for families choosing to go to the health department.

Additionally, if a child has had the Tdap immunization within the last five years, he or she does not need to have the shot re-administered, but parents still have to provide the school with the proof of the immunization from either the doctor or local health department.

Parents also should note that the Tdap immunization might be listed as T, Td, Dtap or Tdap in records.

For more information about the Tdap immunization, contact your family doctor or call the Suffolk Health Department at 686-4900.