Beginning next year every Oklahoma seventh-grader will be required to get a pertussis vaccine, a change in law that is aimed at preventing life-threatening outbreaks of whooping cough.
â€œWe don't want any seventh-grader next year not to be able to start school because of a vaccine,â€ said Debbie Johnson, the administrator of health services for Oklahoma City Public Schools. â€œIt's a horrible cough and can be life-threatening if transmitted to infants.â€
Johnson was at Roosevelt Middle School on Thursday along with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and NBA legend Bob Lanier pushing for sixth-grade students to get their pertussis shot called Tdap for the tetanus booster and diphtheria vaccines that it is combined with.
The message at Roosevelt was not just about getting vaccinated for pertussis, however, and Johnson emphasizes that all teens between the ages of 11 and 18 should also get meningococcal and HPV vaccines.
Meningitis survivor Amanda Moran also spoke to students at Roosevelt about the viral or bacterial infection that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preteens are particularly vulnerable to.
Additionally Johnson said the HPV vaccine is important particularly for females. It prevents the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer in women.
All three vaccines are available to Oklahoma City schoolchildren for free through the district's health program.
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For more information about vaccines or to find out where to take your child to get vaccinated, call the Oklahoma City school district's health office at 587-0245.