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NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson La Salle County Health Department nurses Ann Spika (left) and Holly Bressner (right) give two vaccination shots simultaneously to Marquette High School freshman Molly Darm of Ottawa. The state of Illinois is changing its vaccination requirements for school-age children.
NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson La Salle County Health Department director of personal health Cathy Larsen explains the various benefits of getting vaccinations and the dangers of contracting certain communicable diseases.
Molly Darm closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. Two La Salle County Health Department nurses stood on each side of her rubbing alcohol swabs on the meaty parts of the young girl’s shoulders. Once satisfied, they each picked up a syringe loaded with a different vaccine, and then counted down together. Three. Two. One. “Ow — that really hurt!” Darm exclaimed. All sixth- and 12th-grade students are now required to show proof of receiving the Tdap vaccine and must have an appointment to get the vaccine or have an approved medical or religious exemption on file. Last year, only sixth- and ninth-grade students needed the Tdap vaccine. Cathy Larsen, director of personal health at the health department, said the change was made to better ensure more young people and the public are protected from communicable diseases that can be fatal. “We don’t have a lot of these cases anymore and we don’t want any cases,” Larsen said. Vaccination continues to be the single most effective strategy to reduce illness, and even death, caused by pertussis (whopping cough) and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to Jenny Barrie, health department spokesman. Children who are not vaccinated are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classroom and community. That includes babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions, Next year, Larsen and other county health officials expect the state to include a requirement for a meningococcal vaccination for all seventh through 12th grade students. “We’ve been proactively offering it to young people in our childhood immunization clinics and many are taking it,” Larsen said. “We have a good start on it.” Specifically, the Tdap vaccination fights against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects the nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of the jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can interfere with the ability to breathe and, ultimately, threaten life. Tetanus is commonly known as “lockjaw.” Diptheria is a serious upper-respiratory tract infection of bacteria. Pertussis is a highly-contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe. A deep “whooping” sound often is heard when the patient tries to take a breath. Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. “We have seen increases in whooping cough cases over the past couple years,” said Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck in a prepared statement. “Schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily pass illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs and crowding conditions.” There are a number of vaccinations children are either required or recommended to receive. For example, Darm is a freshman at Marquette High School in Ottawa. She’s already had the Tdap vaccination, but also received the Hepatitus A (an infectious disease of the liver) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccinations. And yes, the shots hurt, Darm said, but getting two shots at the same time is a little better than facing the anxiety of consecutive shots. “A lot of people prefer it that way,” Larsen said. “You just sit down, get two shots at the same time and you’re done.” Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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