Cases of whooping cough are on the rise across the country and fewer adolescents are being vaccinated for the disease in South Carolina, which is why the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is now making the shots mandatory for all rising seventh graders.

Free vaccines

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is offering free whooping cough vaccines in August.

The free vaccines are only available on specific days at these local clinics:

Aug. 10

Citadel Mall

2070 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.

Suite 200

Charleston, S.C. 29407

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Aug. 10

Mount Pleasant Health Department

1189 Sweetgrass Basket Parkway

Suite 100

Mount Pleasant, S.C. 29464

9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 17

Summerville Health Department

500 North Main Street

Summerville, S.C. 29483

9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 17

Goose Creek Health Department

106 Westview Drive

Goose Creek, S.C. 29445

9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 17

Moncks Corner Health Department

109 West Main Street

Moncks Corner, S.C. 29461

9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

The whooping cost vaccine is also available at primary care doctors’ offices and many retail pharmacies.

Children without Medicaid are normally charged $13 for the vaccine at county health clinics. Adults are charged $25.

Children with Medicaid are never charged for the shot.

To help parents comply with the regulation, DHEC is offering free whooping cough vaccines, also called Tdap vaccines, at clinics throughout the state on certain days in August.

The vaccine, administered in the arm, is a booster to the whooping cough vaccine given to infants. It protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, the last of which is commonly called whooping cough. The vaccine’s protection can diminish by the time children are 10.

It is also recommended for children older than 11 years old, individuals who spend time around babies, pregnant women and anyone who has not received a tetanus or Tdap booster shot in the past 10 years.

Dr. Riyadh Muhammad, a pediatrician and medical consultant for DHEC, said the new vaccination requirement was first announced by the department in March 2012 when it was evident that cases of whooping cough were on the rise.

Nationally, there were about 41,000 reported cases of whooping cough in 2012.

“That’s higher than any previous year since 1955,” Muhammad said.

During the same year, there were 238 reported cases of whooping cough in South Carolina and data shows fewer people in the state are vaccinated for the disease than the national average.

Only 59.4 percent of adolescents were covered by a Tdap vaccine in South Carolina in 2011 versus 78.2 percent across the country, Muhammad said.

“We’ve got a lot of disease and we’re not covering very well for the vaccine,” she said.

State law allows DHEC to establish vaccination requirements for children to attend school.

Muhammad said students must show proof of the Tdap vaccination on the first day of school.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.