Northwest Iowa — Iowa students who will be starting seventh grade next month have to be vaccinated for whooping cough, or pertussis. Dr. Patty Quinlisk, the state’s chief epidemiologist, says it’s a new requirement this year.
(As above) Dr. Quinlisk says, “Kids need a booster shot just to keep them safe from this disease and to keep them from spreading it to other people.” The chemistry in the shots was changed about 15 years ago, allowing for an upturn in the number of cases.
Because of that, she says a whooping cough booster is now mandatory for Iowa middle schoolers.
(As above) “That’s about the time the shots they got before they started kindergarten are waning,” Quinlisk says. “In other words, that immunity starts to not be as strong and makes the kid susceptible to this disease again.”
When you take your child in for the booster, she recommends checking with your health care professional to see what other shots might be a good idea, too.
(As above) “For example, there’s the new papilloma virus vaccine, there’s some other recommended ones, like the meningococcal vaccine,” Quinlisk says. “There’s others that may not be required but they’re strongly recommended and as long as you’re there, it’s a good time just to make sure your kid’s up to date for everything.”
Last year, Iowa reported nearly one-thousand cases of whooping cough, though the numbers have fallen dramatically this year to about 150 cases so far.
We talked with some of the public health departments in northwest Iowa. In some counties, they have had clinics where the DtP booster is given. That’s the Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis. Officials with O’Brien County Public Health say that many of the county’s seventh graders were immunized last year as sixth graders.
However, in some counties, public health departments have had a poor response. In Lyon County, health nurse Chris Vander Zee says they did have clinics at the county schools, but they were voluntary, and not well attended. She says if the seventh graders get to school and have not had the booster, the school does have the power to exclude them, but she doesn’t think they will. She says under normal circumstances, Public Health will find those students who have not had the booster during their annual audit in October.
Radio Iowa assisted with this story.