The school year is almost over for Illinois school children but their parents should be planning for the upcoming school year. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) encourages parents to skip the long lines and make appointments now for their children’s required school physicals. When students are immunized early, it lessons their chances of facing a medical exclusion from school. Most importantly, it protects them against harmful illnesses.
Immunizations help protect children from 14 potentially deadly diseases like polio, measles, mumps and chickenpox. National Immunization Survey Data shows vaccination rates are increasing. Now 73 percent of children are receiving six vaccines.
In Chicago, rates are higher than the national average with 75 percent of children receiving the full series of vaccines by age two.
Now state health officials are pushing parents to keep their children’s immunizations current and for parents to keep good records of the immunizations.
Illinois students entering the 6th and 9th grades during the 2012-2013 school year will be required to have a school physical and show proof of receiving the Tdap vaccine, the IDPH recently announced. Or else, students must have an appointment to get the vaccine or have an approved medical or religious exemption on file. Students who fail to comply will not be permitted to attend school.
Tdap is an approved vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). The newly required Tdap vaccine, a booster shot for continued protection against these illnesses, is especially important after recent outbreaks of pertussis in Illinois and nationwide.
“Although we are approaching the end of the school year for many students, now is the time for parents to start scheduling appointments for next year’s school immunization requirements,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Acting Director, Dr. Arthur F. Kohrman.
Previously the Tdap was recommended for children entering the 6th grade but now the IDPH requires that both 6th and 9th graders receive the vaccine, Kohrman stated.
“We hope that families will comply with the new requirement by ensuring that children entering 6th and 9th grades get the Tdap vaccine during spring or summer so they’re ready for the 2012-13 school year,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We don’t want any students to miss precious time in school because they don’t meet this requirement, or worse, they fall ill to illness such as whooping cough.”
State officials emphasize that immunizations give children’s immune systems a chance to make protective antibodies that help fight against disease and illness. Those who are not immunized run the risk of being exposed to germs too strong for them to fight. Children under 5 years of age are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infection.
Kids often receive a plethora of vaccinations by age 2. This protects them from carrying diseases and prevents the spread of illnesses to others.
All parents should keep records of all the shots that their child has ever received.
A record should be started when a child gets their first shot and updated each time they receive an immunization. Shot records should be treated like a birth certificate or any other important document, stored in a safe place and easily accessible when requested by school officials or health care providers.
By Thelma Sardin
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.