• THE REQUIREMENT: California law requires all students entering grades 7-12 will need proof of a pertussis (whooping cough) booster shot, known as Tdap, before starting school for the 2011-12 school year. This requirement:
• Begins July 1, 2011
• Will be met by receiving a dose of Tdap vaccine on or after his or her 10th birthday;
• Applies to all public and private schools;
• Beginning July 1, 2012 and beyond, all students entering the seventh-grade will need proof of a Tdap booster shot before starting school.
• If your child has private health insurance – Tdap booster shot is covered; however, insurance co-pay may apply.
• If your child has Healthy Families – Tdap booster shot is covered; however, insurance co-pay may apply if combined with another type of visit.
• If your child has Medi-Cal – Tdap booster shot is covered.
• If your child does not have health insurance – your child may be eligible for the Child Health and Disability Program Gateway Program (CHDP). Tdap booster shot is covered.
• MORE INFO: For more information on getting vaccinated against pertussis contact your healthcare provider or Public Health Services. For general information on pertussis, visit San Joaquin County Public Health Services at http://www.sjcphs.org, the California Department of Public Health at http://www.cdph.ca.gov, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov.
California is in the midst of a declared whooping cough epidemic. In the first nine months of 2001, 10 infants - all under the months of age - died from the highly contagious bacterial disease. There were 5,978 confirmed cases in nine months of the disease that is hard for doctors to diagnose as most of the initial symptoms parallel those of a common cold. This is the worst outbreak of whooping cough in California in 60 years.
Whooping cough triggers uncontrollable coughing for 10 to 12 days that usually starts a week after someone is exposed. Initial symptoms make it seem like a common cold complete with running nose, a low grade fever of 102 degrees or less, and diarrhea. Severe coughing start after a week that can lead to vomiting and shortness of consciousness. The coughing can get so severe that it can break blood vessels in the eyes brain, and face. The big risk to young children is death from suffocation.
The state-mandate requires all students entering the seventh through 12th grade after July 1 to be immunized against whooping cough or else they must be barred from classes. It impacts all public schools including Ripon Unified plus private schools as well.
Since students can’t legally be enrolled without the immunization under California law, it could create severe problems for those in the high school level who simply won’t be scheduled for classes until they can provide such proof. Late compliance could mean they possibly would not be able to get electives that they prefer.
The goal is to get 100 percent compliance before the current school year ends in May since school sites shut down and cannot process proof of immunization during summer vacation.
“Parents need to provide documentation to their child’s school office now and if their child has not been vaccinated they need to get the whooping cough/pertussis vaccination now,” noted Caroline Thibodeau who serves as Manteca Unified director of health services.
Consent forms for those opting for school site immunization clinics were due on Friday. The shots at the school sites are expected to cost about $40 and are designed for families who aren’t covered either through health insurance nor qualify for free immunizations through county public health services. An office visit plus the shot can easily cost over $100 at a private practice.
Thibodeau noted that there are opt out forms based on religious objections with real tight guideline that must be met. The only drawback is if one case of whopping cough is reported, those students who are not immunized - each school has a master list - are immediately pulled from school and could be barred from going back to classes for weeks until the danger passes.
“Anyone who has seen an infant with whooping cough will never forget it,” Thibodeau noted.
She noted that students are immunized for whooping cough before they enter school in kindergarten. The vaccine though starts to wane in effectiveness after five years or so.
“People don’t realize how dangerous some diseases are and how important immunizations are,” said Thibodeau who remembers sugar cube polio vaccines and parental fears that their children could contract the crippling and sometime fatal disease that can put victims in iron lungs.