|August 30, 2001
TETANUS/DIPHTHERIA SCHOOL REQUIREMENT
SPRINGFIELD, IL Due to a temporary nationwide shortage of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education have relaxed school immunization requirements for students entering junior and senior high school this year who are due for a routine tetanus/diphtheria booster shot.
While students will not be excluded from school for not having an up-to-date tetanus and diphtheria booster, they will need to get the vaccination after supplies become available, most likely in early 2002. Schools are being asked to keep a record of those students for whom the requirement is deferred and to notify them to schedule the required vaccination when there is sufficient vaccine.
"Students who have received the primary series of tetanus/diphtheria containing vaccine as a child should be protected from these diseases," said Dr. John R. Lumpkin, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "The Department will closely monitor for cases. Vaccine supplies are sufficient for emergencies, such as treatment of people with injuries or wounds."
Last year in Illinois, there was one case of tetanus reported; the last case of diphtheria in the state was in 1985. Vaccination for tetanus and diphtheria was first required for school children in 1967.
The tetanus/diphtheria shortage originated in 2000 when one of the two pharmaceutical companies that manufactured the vaccine decided to stop production. The remaining company has increased production, but it will take until early next year to make up the shortage.
State school immunization requirements call for a tetanus/diphtheria booster shot every 10 years. Those students who were vaccinated according to the recommended schedule would have received the tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (DTaP) booster series on or after 4 years of age and before entering kindergarten. Depending on when a student last received a tetanus/diphtheria shot, the shortage of vaccine would most likely affect students entering grades 7-10 this fall. There is no shortage of the DTaP vaccine.
The other school immunization and physical requirements remain in place. Illinois law requires that children attending a public, private, independent or parochial elementary or secondary school be immunized against eight diseases. Children entering school for the first time and those starting kindergarten, 5th and 9th grades also must have a school physical examination.
Dr. Lumpkin said a child without the state-mandated vaccinations may not be allowed to attend school until all the immunizations have been received or until medical proof that the child has had the disease is provided. School districts must demonstrate 90 percent compliance with the immunization requirements by no later than Oct. 15 of each year or face a loss of state aid. School districts have the option of enforcing the requirement anytime from the opening day of school until Oct. 15.
State law does provide exemptions from the immunizations requirements for religious or medical reasons.
For an exemption on religious grounds, the parent or legal guardian must submit a written and signed statement to the local school authority detailing the religious belief that conflicts with immunizations.
A medical exemption must be made by a licensed physician indicating the medical condition that precludes the child from receiving the required immunizations.
To be protected from these diseases and in compliance with state law, children entering Illinois elementary or secondary schools for the first time must show vaccination proof for the following:
Vaccines are available statewide through local health departments and public clinics. For information on obtaining immunizations or a school physical, individuals should contact their local health department or telephone the state's immunization hotline at 800-323-4769 (voice and TTY).
In addition to immunizations and a physical examination, state law requires children 6 months through 6 years of age who are entering a licensed day care facility, preschool or kindergarten to be screened or assessed for lead poisoning. Children living in areas determined by the Department to be high-risk for lead poisoning must be screened using a blood lead test. Those who live in low-risk areas must be evaluated individually using a lead risk assessment questionnaire developed by the Department. The Illinois State Board of Education does not exclude children from school if they have not been tested for lead poisoning.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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