Washington State is in the midst of a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic. Nearly 3,300 cases have been reported so far this year—more than the State has recorded in seventy years.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe. Young infants are at the highest risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death from pertussis.
“We must be sure our kids start the school year on the right foot,” said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes, a pediatrician. “Unvaccinated kids are more likely to catch and spread serious illnesses like whooping cough. That’s why it’s so important to protect children from this and other preventable diseases.”
All vaccines required to enroll in school are available to children at no cost. Washington’s youngsters need several vaccines before they can attend school and childcare. Two vaccines protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The DTaP vaccine is required for kids entering childcare and kindergarten. One dose of Tdap vaccine is required for kids 11 and older (6th – 11th grade).
Parents can find out which vaccines are required for school and childcare attendance online. Be sure to ask for vaccination records from your healthcare provider for your children now so you’ll have enough time to get any immunizations they might need.
Kids who aren’t fully immunized may be sent home from school, preschool, or childcare if a disease outbreak occurs. Last year a new law changed the process for parents or guardians to exempt their child from required immunizations. They must now fill out and submit an exemption certificate, signed by a healthcare provider, verifying that the provider has shared information on immunization benefits and risks.
No-cost vaccines are available for children up to age 19 through healthcare providers participating in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program. They may charge an office visit fee and a fee to give the vaccine, called an administration fee. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask the healthcare provider to waive the cost.
The Department of Health website (doh.wa.gov) is your source for a healthy dose of information.