Illinois Changes Requirements for Whooping Cough Booster

Teen Getting VaccinatedEffective for the 2013-14 school year, all Illinois students entering sixth through 12th grades must have proof of receiving the Tdap booster in an effort to better protect young people from whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

“Whooping cough is a particularly serious respiratory bacterial disease that spreads very, very easily between people and it’s especially dangerous in younger children,” said Ashish John, MD, a pediatrician with Koke Mill Medical Associates. “We are seeing an increasing number of cases in the United States and especially in Illinois.”

Infants receive a five-set series of the DTaP vaccination — which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis — at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 15 months and again during their kindergarten wellness checkup prior to beginning school. After this series, they should receive the Tdap booster to help strengthen their immunity, which can wane over time, Dr. John said.

Adults also are encouraged to get the Tdap booster, especially those who care for young children. Whooping cough in infants is particularly serious.

The Tdap vaccine is a one-dose booster. Teens or preteens who have received the booster will not have to get it again but will need to show proof of receiving it by Oct. 15, 2013.

“We definitely advocate getting the booster shot,” Dr. John said. “We’ve had a large increase in the number of outbreaks over the past couple of years. For 2012, the number of cases overall doubled in the United States to about 41,000, and 2,000 of that figure was in Illinois alone. We hear something almost weekly of reported cases in Springfield or the outlying areas.”

Booster shots are available in most pediatrician or primary care offices, as well as public health departments and certain pharmacies.

Dr. John also recommends people be aware of the signs and symptoms of whooping cough. The infection is characteristic of nonstop coughing fits during which the affected person has trouble catching a breath. When they do get the opportunity to inhale, they let out a distinct, deep “whoop” sound.