Iowa students who will be starting seventh grade next month have to be vaccinated for whooping cough, or pertussis. Dr. Patty Quinlisk, the state’s chief epidemiologist, says it’s a new requirement this year. “Kids need a booster shot just to keep them safe from this disease and to keep them from spreading it to other people,” Quinlisk says.

The chemistry in the shots was changed about 15 years ago, allowing for an upturn in the number of cases. Because of that, she says a whooping cough booster is now mandatory for Iowa middle schoolers. “That’s about the time the shots they got before they started kindergarten are waning,” Quinlisk says.

“In other words, that immunity starts to not be as strong and makes the kid susceptible to this disease again.” When you take your child in for the booster, she recommends checking with your health care professional to see what other shots might be a good idea, too.

“For example, there’s the new papilloma virus vaccine, there’s some other recommended ones, like the meningococcal vaccine,” Quinlisk says. “There’s others that may not be required but they’re strongly recommended and as long as you’re there, it’s a good time just to make sure your kid’s up to date for everything.”

Last year, Iowa reported nearly 1,000 cases of whooping cough through this date, though the numbers have fallen dramatically this year to about 150 cases so far.