With whooping cough still on the rise, August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia is urging parents to immunize their children and other adult family members against infectious diseases such as pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, which continues to be on the rise across the country. School aged children have only days to receive the shots they need before going back to school. In North Carolina schools, immunization records are checked at the beginning of each school year, with a special emphasis at the start of kindergarten and at the start of sixth grade.
Secretary Delia also stressed that older family members often serve as carriers of pertussis and can easily spread it to vulnerable infants and young children, so they should be immunized as well. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.
August not only marks the beginning of school for most in North Carolina, but it is also recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month.
“Back to school time is a good opportunity to see that everyone in your household is up to date on required vaccinations,” Delia said. “We have seen a dramatic increase in pertussis cases in North Carolina and across the country this year, so we need a community-wide effort to prevent further spread of the disease.”
More than 366 cases of pertussis have been reported in North Carolina since the beginning of the outbreak in November 2011. Secretary Delia recently visited the health department in Alamance County, which alone has seen 153 cases.
There has been one reported case of pertussis in the Appalachian District within the last month. Although the Appalachian District has been very fortunate to not have seen the outbreak numbers that Alamance County has, the potential for pertussis disease across our district is real. The good news is, the district has a great resource for prevention with the Tdap vaccine.
In response to the increase in whooping cough cases outbreak, DHHS has made the Tdap vaccine available to anyone at no cost for a limited time. In addition to pertussis, all school children in North Carolina must be vaccinated against: Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Hib Disease, Measles, Mumps, Polio, Rubella, Tetanus, and Varicella (chickenpox).
Some children through the age of 18 are eligible to receive their immunizations at no cost through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program which provides vaccines to those who are Medicaid eligible, American Indian or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured. There is no fee for the cost of the VFC vaccine for eligible children; however a provider may charge an administrative fee.
For more information about school immunization requirements and to learn if your child qualifies for the VFC program, please contact your local health department or visit with North Carolina Immunization Branch website: www.immunize.nc.gov.
Ashe County Health Department, part of Appalachian District Health Department which includes Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties, is open 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary for vaccinations; if you have questions, call (336) 246-9449.
For additional information, contact Candy Gambill, Immunization Program Coordinator of the Appalachian District Health Department: firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 264-4995.