The Walker County Health Department is holding a special immunization clinic today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for students entering 6th grade for the 2010-2011 school year.
Margaret Guthrie, the health services coordinator for Walker County Schools, said the immunization update is a new state requirement.
“They are requiring them (new 6th grade students) to have the pertussis immunization this year,” Guthrie said about the Tdap vaccine being administered.
Because the cost is on a sliding scale based on family income and number of dependents, the immunizations being offered today by the health department will cost $15 or less.
Immunization clinics are also being held by the Walker County Health Department on July 13 and July 27. Both clinics will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Already the Walker County Health Department has held two immunization clinics.
Local students who attend the clinics are required to bring a copy of their immunization certificate (blue slip) from school or a copy of their personal immunization record.
“They need to have an updated blue slip when they start back to school,” Guthrie said. “They can’t be enrolled in school until they get the vaccine.”
Prior to the end of the 2009-2010 school year, Guthrie said letters were mailed out to the guardians of area students who need the shot before they can be enrolled in the 6th grade this August.
“We notified the parents that this was a new requirement,” she said.
Robert Sparkman, Jasper City Schools superintendent, said the school system’s SchoolCast communications system will be used soon to inform Jasper parents about the required vaccination and the Tdap clinics being offered locally.
Area parents who are unable to attend the clinics may schedule an appointment by calling the The Walker County Health Department at 221-9775. The health department is located in Jasper at 705 20th Avenue East.
Guthrie said incidents of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, have been on the rise recently.
“Pertussis is on the upswing a little bit,” Guthrie said. “We’ve had several cases in Walker County in the last couple of years.”
In June 2009, an article in the Daily Mountain Eagle reported there had already been 21 cases of pertussis in Walker County reported for the year. The area hit hardest by the outbreak was Carbon Hill.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection known to last for more than three months. Early symptoms are similar to the common cold, but after one to two weeks severe coughing begins. It’s name comes from the sound caused when children inhale after all the air is gone from their lungs after a coughing fit.
The coughing episodes can cause vomiting, a hernia or a broken rib and the disease can lead to pneumonia.
Pertussis is spread by airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, infants who contact pertussis are especially at risk. The CDC reports that 39 of the 40 pertussis deaths in 2005 occurred in infants.
According to a document from The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Immunization division, the Tdap vaccine administered to protect against pertussis also works to prevent tetanus and diphtheria.
Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers.
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness marked by the formation of a false membrane in the throat.