SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Students entering sixth and ninth grade this year must be vaccinated for whooping cough under a new Illinois law.

The law being put into effect for the 2012-13 school year requires students to get the Tdap vaccine, a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.

“Getting the vaccine is one of the biggest ways to prevent the disease,” Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. “It saves these children from being out of school.”

Students must either show proof of having received the vaccination, have an appointment to get it or have an approved medical or religious exemption on file, state public health officials said. Students have until Oct. 15 to be immunized.

The requirement comes as Illinois sees an increase in the number of whooping cough cases. Approximately 1,200 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Illinois so far this year. That’s compared to 468 cases reported as of Aug. 1 last year. There were about 1,500 cases of whooping cough statewide for all of 2011.

“Typically we do see a slight uptick going into the fall,” Arnold said. “We’re on pace similar to the rest of the country to see increased pertussis.”

After last year’s high number of whooping cough cases Naperville, Heather Bezanis said she is happy with the new state law because her daughter, who is in the sixth grade, has asthma.

“Given what happened last year,” she told the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t think anybody would want to go through that.”

In western Illinois, the Adams County Health Department saw busy days for vaccinations last week before school started.

“Once August comes, it’s like a panic state,” county immunization coordinator Jan Hummel told The Quincy Herald-Whig. “Everybody says, `Oh, I have to get my kids shots.”’

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