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A new school immunization requirement is now in effect for all sixth grade students in Illinois.

Staying up-to-date on vaccines helps families protect their children from the most serious illnesses. Parents should be aware of the new immunization requirement for all sixth grade and older students, says Dr. Craig Batterman, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  He explains the new required booster vaccine.

“This year they are required to get the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine, called a Tdap vaccine in order to enter school.  This is starting at sixth grade and they have to have proof of this Tdap booster from then on in order to attend.”

Dr. Batterman says the new requirement is due to increased incidences of pertussis or whooping cough in recent years.  The pertussis vaccine is given to younger age children, but immunity wanes in the older age group, making them more susceptible to the disease. He lists other required school vaccinations.

“... when they enter kindergarten, they have to show proof of receiving the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or the Tdap, their final polio, their final measles or rubella vaccine and their final varicella or chicken pox vaccine.  And then at fifth and sixth grade, the Tdap comes in play as I mentioned before. And then they just have to show proof of all these immunizations as they move on through the years in school.”

Dr. Batterman says vaccines are safe and he urges parents to make sure their children get the required vaccinations at the scheduled times.  If they have questions about vaccines, they should talk with their primary care physician, pediatrician or local public health department.

Ruth Slottag