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Schools to require new vaccine for pertussis

Law mandating pertussis booster for seventh through 12th grade students follows whooping cough deaths in 2010

By Chris Kenrick

Embarcadero Media

Starting this fall, California public and private schools will require students in grades 7 through 12 to have a booster shot against pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

The mandate -- which follows the death of 10 California infants in a whooping cough epidemic last year -- comes from a new law signed last September by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation has "no shortage" of the vaccination, a spokeswoman said.

"The new state regulation says that all students between seventh and 12th grade need (the pertussis booster) because the childhood vaccination doesn't give lifelong immunity," Medical Foundation Public Affairs Manager Cynthia Greaves said.

For the 2011-12 school year, all students entering any grade from 7 to 12 will need proof of the booster, known as Tdap.

For 2012-13 and future school years, all students entering seventh grade -- or those newly registering for seventh through 12th grade in a California district or private school -- will need proof of the Tdap booster.

More information is posted at shotsforschool.org, sponsored by the California Department of Public Health.

The agency is urging parents not to wait for the new school year to get children vaccinated since "there will be no grace period, and the regulations will be strictly enforced."

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation -- whose patient population includes 60,000 children in the seventh- to twelfth-grade age group stretching from Watsonville to San Mateo County to the East Bay -- has identified which of those already have had the booster and which have not.

The foundation recently mailed proof of vaccination to parents of children who have had the booster that will be acceptable to school officials, PAMF Director of Communications and Public Affairs Jill Antonides said.

In the coming weeks, the foundation will mail reminders about the new law to parents of children who have not yet had the Tdap booster, Antonides said.

In calendar 2010, 8,383 cases of whooping cough, including the 10 infant deaths, were reported throughout California, according to a preliminary count by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It was the highest number of reported cases since 1947, when 9,934 cases were reported, and the highest incidence of cases since 1958, when there were 26 cases per 100,000 population, the CDC said.

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