COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina 7th graders will be forced to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine that will keep them in class and protect infants at home.

Starting this fall all students entering seventh grade will have to be up to date on the vaccine that protects against whooping cough.

The requirement by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control comes as childhood immunizations have dropped and cases of whooping cough have spiked statewide.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious, potentially fatal respiratory disease that is most dangerous to infants. It can prevent an infant from being able to breathe or eat, and cause brain damage or pneumonia.

Infants are often infected with the disease by adolescents and adults who are carrying it.