A new school immunization law requires all students entering 7th through 12th grades in the 2011-2012 school year in California to be immunized with a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine booster called Tdap.
Pertussis is a contagious disease that causes violent coughing fits that make it hard to breathe. It spreads easily when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes. The symptoms can last for months. Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for young babies.
Here in San Diego County, we have experienced just how serious whooping cough can be. Last year, 1,144 cases of whooping cough were reported. Two babies died.
A booster vaccine is needed in addition to the regular young childhood series of vaccines that protect against pertussis. This is because vaccine protection diminishes over time. Any immunity developed after having whooping cough disease also wears off, so people who have had whooping cough can get it again.
The new school entry booster dose is very important. Not only does it protect schoolchildren, but it can also protect babies who are too young to have received the initial series of pertussis vaccine. And it helps protect the whole community; when enough people are protected against it, it’s much less likely that pertussis will spread and possibly infect babies and others who may not have been able to receive the vaccine themselves.
The new requirement affects all students – current, new, and transfers – in public and private schools. The law has two phases:
- For the 2011-2012 school year, all students entering into 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grades will need proof of a Tdap shot before starting school.
- For 2012-2013 and future school years, all students entering into 7th grade will need proof of a Tdap shot before starting school
The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency urges parents of children who will start 7th-12th grades this fall to get their kids protected now. Parents should contact their children’s doctor or other regular source of health care to find out if their children need this vaccine.
If parents wait until later in the summer, there may be no doctor’s appointments available. They could face long lines at doctor’s offices and clinics. And if children don’t have proof of immunization with this vaccine, they may not be able to enter school.
Find out more about the new requirement, pertussis, and other immunization topics at: