State warns of whooping cough vaccine shortage

News-DemocratSeptember 26, 2013 


A national shortage of the Tdap vaccine is worrying state school officials, as some cases of whooping cough have surfaced, but local health officials say the vaccine is available in the metro-east.

The state requires the Tdap vaccine for enrollment in grades six to 12. It vaccinates against pertussis, also known as whooping cough; diphtheria and tetanus, and must be bolstered by a booster Tdap shot every 10 years through adulthood.

While there may be a national shortage, local health departments indicate they have enough Tdap vaccine. "In Madison County there is no shortage of Tdap," said spokesman Amy Yeager. "Hopefully that will encourage people who haven't done it yet to come in."

Recent cases of pertussis -- including a case reported at Edwardsville High School -- led to reminders that adults are also supposed to get the Tdap booster, but compliance is harder to track without the school requirement.

Last year, there was a spike in pertussis cases in Madison County, with 19 cases in April and May 2012. But Yeager said while they have a few cases of pertussis, it is nothing like the spike in 2012. "It's not something for high alert," she said.

Likewise, the St. Clair County Health Department reported that they have plenty of Tdap vaccine and have been able to order more.

A memo this week from the Illinois State Board of Education to schools informed them of a national shortage of Tdap vaccine, but that the state cannot waive the requirement for students to be vaccinated.

However, schools will not face sanctions as long as:

* The student's health record contains a statement from a health provider stating that the student was not vaccinated due to lack of availability;

* An appointment has been made during the school year when the vaccine is available;

* There is a legitimate medical or religious exemption on file.

Students are recommended to receive the Tdap vaccine at age 11-2. Older students age 13-18 who have not received Tdap are recommended to get a catch-up dose to bolster immunity.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 239-2507.

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