New Tdap Vaccine Requirement for 7th Graders Begins This Fall - MetroFamily Magazine
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New Tdap Vaccine Requirement for 7th Graders Begins This Fall

by Oklahoma City-County Health Department

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Avoid the Summer Rush — Vaccinate Your Children Early

Parents can save time by making sure children are caught up on vaccinations now

Every summer during the few weeks before the start of school, lines at vaccination clinics are usually long, with wait-times that can run into hours. That’s why the Oklahoma City County Health Department (OCCHD) is encouraging parents to bring their children in for vaccinations early.

This year, lines may be even longer because of a new requirement that all students entering seventh grade have one booster dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine) before the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

“During the springtime, people can usually get in and out of our vaccination clinics very quickly,” says Immunizations Program Administrator Joyce Lopez. “You can look around our waiting room now and see that it’s practically empty, but by early July we expect this room will be packed all day long.”

The State Board of Health adopted the new requirement for Tdap booster shots to help fight the spread of whooping cough in Oklahoma schools and communities. “We want to avoid the outbreaks of this disease that we’ve seen in other parts of the country,” Lopez says. Both California and Texas have reported thousands of cases of whooping cough over the past two years. In California last year, ten babies died of whooping cough.

“While Oklahoma has been fortunate thus far in avoiding an outbreak of whooping cough, we did see an increase in the number of cases reported in the state last year,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “One hundred seventy cases were reported in 2010 compared to 100 cases in 2009. We are hopeful that this new vaccine requirement will help assure that our students, families and communities are protected against this dangerous disease.”

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a potentially deadly infection that can strike people of any age, but is especially dangerous for babies. Pertussis causes severe coughing fits that are often marked by a “whoop” made when gasping for breath. Vomiting after coughing fits may also be an indicator of pertussis.

“Vaccinations are the most important tool we have to prevent serious childhood diseases and unnecessary deaths,” Lopez says. “You only have to look at the whooping cough epidemic in California to understand how important this in protecting our children.”

Tdap is a combination vaccine that provides a booster dose of pertussis along with the tetanus and diphtheria booster (Td). Tdap vaccine is routinely recommended for all children at 11-12 years of age, and for the first time this school year, it will be a requirement for all students entering the 7th grade in Oklahoma.

There is no grace period allowed for students to comply with this requirement with the exception of military children transferring from another state. Military children may be allowed up to 30 days from the date of enrollment to obtain state required immunizations. All other students must receive the vaccine and present an immunization record before entering the seventh grade.

Younger Oklahoma children are required to have a series of six vaccines before they begin kindergarten. A complete list is available here.

Eleven and twelve year old children should also receive meningitis and HPV (human papillomavirus) immunizations, although these vaccines are not currently required for school entry.

Tdap vaccine is available from doctors, clinics, and county health departments statewide.

OCCHD offers several vaccination locations across Oklahoma County:

* OCCHD main building – 921 N.E. 23rd St., Oklahoma City, OK, 73105
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesdays – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fridays – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The clinic is open during the lunch hour and appointments are not required for general immunizations. Immunizations are available to children and adults. OCCHD asks that you bring immunization records with you. The parent or legal guardian must be present with a child. Any person other than the parent must have legal proof of guardianship or a permission letter from the parent stating that the child can have the necessary shots on the date of the clinic.

In addition to the main clinic, OCCHD offers regularly scheduled clinics at these locations:

* 1ST BAPTIST CHURCH OF BETHANY – 3800 Mueller (West of MacArthur)
1st Monday every month 8:30–11:00 a.m.

4th Tuesday every month 8:30-11:00 a.m.

* LATINO COMMUNITY CENTER – 420 SW 10th, Oklahoma City
1st Thursday every month 8:30–12:00 p.m.

* MIDWEST CITY WEED & SEED – 1124 N Douglas Boulevard
3rd Wednesday every month 1:00-4:00 p.m.

In addition, The Oklahoma Caring Van Program is a mobile immunization initiative that delivers vaccines at no cost to children at child care centers, schools, and community locations that are convenient for low-income families.

For more information, please see the Oklahoma City-County’s Immunizations page.  

Read more about Oklahoma’s required immunizations for the 2011-2012 school year.

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