Deadline approaching for Tdap immunizations

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Beaufort County parents, facing a Sept. 20 deadline to make certain that their seventh-grade children have mandatory “Tdap” immunizations,  got some welcome assistance from state health officials.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced a special free walk-in clinic this Saturday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Okatie Elementary School.  DHEC staff will be on hand with enough Tdap boosters to immunize 300 seventh-graders. The boosters protect children against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 20, seventh-graders who haven’t provided proof of Tdap immunizations will not be allowed to attend school. Schools began informing parents last school year about the new state vaccination requirements.  But as of today, about 350 seventh-graders across the district had not provided updated certificates of immunization showing that they had received Tdap boosters. Thirty-day extensions granted last month will expire on Sept. 20.

“This is a state requirement, and there’s no wiggle room left,” said Chief Student Services Officer Gregory McCord.  “Parents need to make sure that their seventh-graders have the Tdap vaccinations that are required by the state — and DHEC’s much-appreciated free clinic this Saturday is a way to get that done at no cost to parents.”

DHEC’s Dana Millet said Saturday’s walk-in clinic will not require appointments, which should provide easier access for parents.

“This free Tdap vaccine is the best way to prevent whooping cough, and we’re working with the schools to make this vaccination as convenient as possible for parents,” said Millet, health director for DHEC’s Lowcountry Region. “A student’s health is directly related to his or her ability to learn. That’s why school nurses work with our frontline staff every day to help our children stay healthy — so they can stay in the classroom and learn.”

Most infants get the Tdap vaccination, but its protection fades as children age, according to DHEC officials.  According to a 2011 national immunization survey, only 59.4 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have had the booster shot in South Carolina, compared to 78.2 percent nationally.

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