TN health officials remind parents about whooping cough vaccine - WSMV News 4

TN health officials remind parents about whooping cough vaccine

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Cases of whooping cough are on the rise across the United States, including in Tennessee.

State health officials are warning parents of rising seventh-graders to get their children vaccinated sooner than later.

"It's important that these children have these vaccines before they go back," said Dr. Kelly Moore, director of the Tennessee Immunization Program.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is highly contagious and can cause respiratory problems, serious illness and even death.

"Pertussis is easily contagious and, unfortunately, the childhood shots we give wear off by the time children are 11 or 12 years old," Moore said.

Pertussis is a chronic, debilitating cough that kills about 20 children every year - mostly infants.

Back in 2010, the Tennessee Department of Health required all students to have a TDAP vaccine by the time they enter seventh grade to protect them and those around them.

"The vaccines that are recommended for all pre-teens are vaccines that protect them from very serious diseases that we still see in the U.S. These are not imaginary diseases we see somewhere else. These are diseases that we see right here in Middle Tennessee. Whooping cough affects hundreds of people in Tennessee every year," Moore said.

But every year, thousands of kids start school without being immunized. So the state health department is encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated now.

"When people don't use the vaccines available to protect themselves, these diseases can come back into our communities and then we have to worry about not only the ones who choose not to protect themselves but also the people who are ill who have health problems where they can't protect themselves," Moore said.

State health officials hope to avoid the kind of whooping cough outbreak states like California are seeing now. California has one of the highest incidents in the country with 3,400 cases of whooping cough already this year.

Officials recommend three types of vaccines for pre-teens, including the TDAP. The MMR shot protects against measles, mumps and rubella, and the HPV vaccine protects against certain types of cancer.

Only the TDAP vaccine is required for school in Tennessee.

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