Students who are entering grade seven in California schools—both public and private—are required by state law to be vaccinated against whooping cough.
Also referred to as pertussis, whooping cough requires a vaccine booster known as a Tdap, which stands for Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Acellular Pertussis.
According to the National Institute of Health, pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it difficult to breath:
Coughing spells may lead to vomiting or a short loss of consciousness. Pertussis should always be considered when vomiting occurs with coughing. In infants, choking spells are common.
Once students have been vaccinated, they will be issued a certificate to bring with them on the first day of classes.
Exemptions are permitted in two instances:
- A licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) who feels a vaccine is not suitable for a student because of medical reasons should submit to the school (via the patient's family as needed) a written statement documenting the medical exemption. The school should place a copy of the completed statement in the student's file.
Personal Belief Exemption
- A parent or guardian may have a child exempted from required immunizations if it's contrary to his/her beliefs. Schools have standardized procedures for parents and guardians who request a personal beliefs exemption.
"There are children out there not getting the proper inoculations, whether due to moral or religious reasons, and as a result, the disease continues to spread," Alice Garcia, a nurse with the , told Patch in .
Garcia said many parents have been fearful of a speculated link between the vaccine and autism. "Studies have been done and found no connection between the two," she said.
Though most dangerous in infants, the illness, a bacterial infection, can affect older children, even if they have been vaccinated.
"This disease is highly contagious and is easily spread face-to-face through coughing or sneezing. In addition, we are finding that the vaccines are only effective for ten years," Garcia said.
For the 2011-12 school year, California students in grades seven to 12 were required to be immunized with a Tdap shot. For the 2012-13 school year and beyond, only seventh graders are required to show proof of immunization.