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March 28, 2011
Oklahoma will require all incoming seventh-graders to have whooping cough vaccine
by: SHANNON MUCHMORE Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
After an increase in reported cases of whooping cough in Oklahoma, the state is requiring students entering the seventh grade this fall to get a vaccine for the disease.
The vaccine, typically given to 11- and 12-year-olds, is called Tdap, for tetanus, diphtheria and acelluar pertussis, or whooping cough.
Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health said the requirement is an attempt to head off any large outbreaks like those seen in California and Texas.
Oklahoma has seen a rise in the number of whooping cough cases recently. In 2009, 100 cases were reported, and in 2010, the number grew to 170, according to the health department.
In November, the Tulsa City-County Health Department encouraged people in the city to get the vaccine after an increase of whooping cough cases in the area.
Adults can have the disease without realizing it, but whooping cough is easily transferred to more vulnerable people, said Don Blose, chief of immunization services at the state health department.
It is most dangerous for infants, he said. "It can lead to death, and it has," he said.
The new requirement is a one-dose booster shot. Babies should get the vaccine at least four times within the first two years of life and as a booster between ages 4 and 6, according to the health department.
Blose said a majority of states already have the requirement in place for seventh-grade students.
Children can get an exemption for medical, personal or religious reasons, but fewer than 1 percent do so, he said.
Some children qualify to receive the vaccine free through the federally funded Vaccines for Children Program. More than 700 clinics and physicians in the state participate.
Children who qualify for the program include those on Medicaid, the uninsured, the underinsured and American Indian tribal members.
Health insurance plans must cover required vaccines, and clinics should not be charging co-pays or deductibles for the shot. The Tdap vaccine is available at all county health departments, Blose said.
About 35 percent of Oklahoma children have already received the vaccine. Doctors and parents have known it would be required this fall for two years, Blose said.
Dr. Jeff Galles, medical director at the Utica Park Clinic, said doctors there have been giving the vaccine for more than a year.
He hasn't seen a rush of parents requesting the vaccine but expects to see an increase before school starts in the fall. He recommends getting the vaccine as soon as possible.
A few parents have objected to vaccines in general, but Galles said they are safe and effective.
"There's a lot of misconceptions, and a lot of fears that aren't rational," he said.
Vaccines required of Oklahoma students
Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health