Maine Seventh Graders Will Need a New Vaccine Next School Year

tdap vaccine

Required Second Dose of Tdap Vaccine

In recent years, vaccines have been a popular topic of discussion among lawmakers. Most states require children to receive several vaccines before they can attend school. A bill was recently passed in Maine that will require seventh grade students to receive the second dose of the Tdap vaccine, which prevents tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services adopted this rule at the end of 2016. It will go into effect in September of 2017, so kids who will begin seventh grade this fall must receive the vaccine. Maine is the 48th state to require the second dose of Tdap. Hawaii and South Dakota are the only two states that don’t require children to receive the vaccine.

Maine has one of the highest pertussis rates in the country. In most years, it’s about double the national average. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a very contagious respiratory disease that is especially dangerous for infants, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems from other diseases or conditions. Infants cannot receive the Tdap vaccine, so they are very susceptible to the illness. If someone with pertussis coughs in the same room as a baby, the baby can easily catch the disease.

In 2015, there were 21.1 cases of pertussis per 100,000 people in Maine, and the national average is 10.3. cases per 100,000 people. The prevalence of pertussis in Maine peaked in 2012 with 737 cases. In 2014, there were 557 cases, and in 2015, there were 281. In 2016 up until November, there were 219. Doctors and lawmakers both hope that the mandatory vaccine will decrease the number of cases in the future.

Margin Sabol, the Maine Immunization Coalition’s vice chairman, believes the current lack of required vaccines is connected to the high rates of pertussis. A recent study published in the Pediatrics scholarly journal reveals that states that require a middle school Tdap vaccine have seen a 22 percent increase in vaccination coverage.

Dawn Gray, the director of the school-based health center at Nasson Health Care, says she believes the requirement will help parents remember to have their children vaccinated. When kids become adolescents and are in good health, parents often forget to have them vaccinated or don’t realize that they still need vaccines. If their children can’t start school until they receive the vaccine, parents are much less likely to forget.

Some people believe that vaccines can be harmful or dangerous, and almost every time lawmakers pass legislation about vaccines, some parents resist the changes. In Maine, it’s very easy for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children. All they have to do is sign a form stating they will not immunize their children for religious or philosophical reasons. Maine has one of the highest opt-out rates for vaccinations in the country, especially for children entering kindergarten. In 2014 and 2015, the state had a severe outbreak of chickenpox, partially due to so many parents opting out of the vaccine.

Many Maine residents support legislation that would make it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinations. In 2015, lawmakers proposed a bill that would require parents to consult with a healthcare professional before opting out of vaccines. However, this bill was vetoed by Governor Paul LePage.

Maine was one of the last states to require kids to receive the second Tdap vaccine, but hopefully the bill will reduce the number of pertussis cases throughout the state. Parents can easily opt out of the vaccine, but this new bill should encourage most parents to make sure their children are up-to-date on their immunizations.

Learn more about the Tdap Vaccine.


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