Before starting back to school in the coming weeks, the Illinois State Medical Society is urging parents to have their children immunized for pertussis, commonly called "whooping cough." Large increases in whooping cough cases are being reported, and a new state law requires all sixth- and ninth-graders to show proof they have been immunized. Students are required to document they have received or are getting a "Tdap" vaccine, which is an immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Students in those grade levels who do not receive the vaccine must have a medical or religious exemption on file with the school they attend.
Everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine (including adults) should also talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated. Infants, the most vulnerable to complications from pertussis, are too young to receive the vaccine. That's why it is important for the children and adults around them to be vaccinated.
Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, it is also a good time for parents to check that their children's immunization records are up to date. It's better to be safe than sorry.
William N. Werner, M.D.
Illinois State Medical Society