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May 13, 2014

Shot requirements changed for 7th graders

ALBANY — Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, seventh graders will be required to have the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) and meningococcal (meningitis) vaccines prior to entering school, says Southwest Health District Immunization Coordinator Rebecca Snow.

“This is a new requirement that brings us in line with recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians,” she said.

Under the revised requirements, students newly enrolled in Georgia schools in grades eight through 12 must have the same immunizations as seventh graders, said Snow.

“Tdap is a booster vaccine for older children, adolescents and adults that protects against three dangerous diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough,” she said. “The booster extends the protection from the DTaP vaccine they got when they were younger.”

Meningococcal vaccination protects against meningitis, a serious bacterial illness that attacks the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can cause shock, coma and death within hours of the first symptoms.

Among people who develop meningitis, 10 to 15 percent die, in spite of treatment. Of those who live, permanent brain damage, hearing loss, kidney failure, loss of arms or legs, or chronic nervous system problems can occur, Snow said.

“Proof of Tdap immunization and meningitis vaccination must be documented on the Georgia immunization certificate or Form 3231,” she said. “Don’t wait until the last minute to get your child vaccinated. Take care of it now so that you will have your immunization records in order and one less thing to worry about when classes start. Your county health department will be happy to assist you if you have questions and to help ensure your child’s immunization records are up-to-date.”

For more information on state-required vaccines, go to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Immunization web site: http://dph.georgia.gov/parent-resources.

“Vaccinations can be administered by your county health department or by your private healthcare provider,” Snow said. “The important thing to know is that vaccinations are considered to be the most successful and cost-effective public health tools parents can use to help protect their children against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, whooping cough and pneumonia.”

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