The Tdap vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). All of these are serious, potentially deadly illnesses caused by bacteria.
"The good thing about this immunization is that it is actually three vaccines in one," said Dr. Alfio Rausa, district health officer for the Mississippi Delta Region. "These immunization last for about 10 years and they are extremely important to the overall health of the state."
Rausa went on to say that the number of whooping cough cases have increased in frequency dramatically across the state and the nation.
"Just a few years ago Mississippi had an outbreak in pertussis where 108 cases were treated," said Rausa. "That doesn't seem like a big number until you look at the historical data. During that same time period, California for example, had about 9,000 reported cases."
Infant babies are the ones that are most threatened by the whooping cough.
"Over the course of the past several years, we have numerous infant deaths in Mississippi caused by this bacteria," continued Rausa. "The reason is because mothers are not passing down the antibodies needed to protect their babies."
That is the ultimate goal in providing these immunizations to these children entering into the seventh grade.
"Most toddlers receive this vaccination by their second birth date," Rausa added. "So by the time that they are 11- or 12-years-old, that vaccine has expired.
"But, by requiring all seventh grade students to get the Tdap vaccine and especially in females who will become future mothers, we hopefully can reduce the number of infant deaths," he said.
In addition to the Tdap vaccine the state department of health also recommends that preteens receive those that protect against meningococcal disease, human papillomavirus (HPV) as well as a second dose of the varicella vaccine for those who have not received one at an earlier age.
"It is important to note that while we strongly recommend the Tdap vaccination for all adolescents, it will only be required for those entering into the seventh grade," said Rausa.
Last year, the state led the nation in the percentage of the population that had received routine immunizations.
All vaccines are available at health department clinics across the state as well as through Vaccine for Children providers. There will be a $10 administrative fee per vaccine in addition to any other costs.