Tdap vaccinations offered to help fight whooping cough

Published 5:25 pm Monday, July 15, 2013

Another fitful night. A mother lays awake, listening helplessly as her child coughs and coughs. This mother knows tomorrow will be another day of school missed, soccer practice missed. And for her, another day of work missed. She wonders wearily when it will end.

This cough is whooping cough, also called the “100-day cough” because of its long duration. And the child? Not an infant, as one might expect, but a preteen, 11 years old. 

Whooping cough — or pertussis — is a serious and contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, violent coughing fits and the characteristic “whooping” sound that follows when a person gasps for air.

A Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) clinic for rising sixth-graders will be offered at Beaufort County Health Department. This clinic will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays from Aug. 12 through Sept. 20. There is no appointment necessary for this service.

Insurance will be billed for those with qualifying insurance. It is recommended parents of children coming to the clinic contact their insurance companies before their children’s visits to verify coverage of immunizations. Those without insurance, with Medicaid or who have insurance that does not cover vaccines, may be eligible for the Vaccines for Children program.

To learn more, call Beaufort County Health Department at 252-946-1902, contact one’ health-care provider, visit CDC’s adolescent vaccine website at or call 800-CDC-INFO.

Whooping cough is on the rise in preteens and teens. In 2009, a quarter of the 16,858 cases of pertussis reported in the United States were among 10- through 19-year-olds.

Most children get vaccinated against whooping cough as babies and get a booster shot before starting kindergarten or first grade. But protection from these vaccines wears off, leaving preteens at risk for infection that can cause prolonged illness, disruptions in school and activities and even hospitalization.

To boost immunity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the Tdap vaccine for all 11- and 12-year-olds.

“It’s important for preteens to get a one-time dose of Tdap to protect themselves and those around them from whooping cough,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Young infants are most vulnerable to serious complications from pertussis and can be infected by older siblings, parents, or other caretakers.”

For infants, whooping cough can be deadly.

“Unfortunately, the most recent survey shows that only a little more than half of teens have received the Tdap vaccine,” said Schuchat. “By taking their preteen to get Tdap, parents can protect their child and help stop this disease from spreading.”

As set out in the North Carolina Administrative Code, a booster dose of tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccine is required for individuals (attending public school) who are entering the sixth grade on or after Aug 1 of any school year if five years or more have passed since the last dose of tetanus/diphtheria toxoid.