Proof of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Booster Required for Students Entering Sixth and Ninth Grades

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[author: Kendra Berner]

The Illinois Department of Public Health has announced that beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, students entering grades six and nine need to show proof of receiving the Tdap vaccine (in addition to having received a physical). The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

The rule was prompted by recent pertussis outbreaks across the country. Although young children receive vaccinations against pertussis, the immunity begins to wear off, leaving middle school and high school students at risk. Pertussis is easily transferred by coughing and sneezing; and the illness can cause students to miss weeks or even months of school.

On or before October 15, students must have proof of having received the booster, an appointment scheduled to receive the booster, or an approved medical or religious exemption. Accepted documentation of receipt of the booster must include the date of the Tdap shot and may be in the form of a note signed by the physician, a print-out from the provider’s electronic medical record system, or a Certificate of Child Health Examination. Students who have had pertussis are not exempt from the immunization requirement. Students without the required documentation will not be permitted to attend school.

The regulations require that students entering sixth grade provide proof of receiving the Tdap vaccine and that students entering seventh through twelfth grades receive Tdap if they have not done so already. It is our understanding after a discussion with the Department of Public Health that due to limited resources, the Department will be enforcing the regulation as described above by requiring proof of the booster only upon entrance to sixth and ninth grades.