New vaccine law takes effect
June 29, 2011
A new California law that requires middle and high school students to be vaccinated against whooping cough takes effect July 1—a regulation that intends to help curb an outbreak of the highly contagious disease.
All students entering 7th through 12th grades in both public and private schools will be required to show proof of a “Tdap” booster shot before going to school to help protect against pertussis, a disease that causes severe coughing fits.
While many of these adolescents were vaccinated as young children, protection from early immunization to pertussis wears off, putting those who do not receive a booster vaccine at risk of contracting the bacterial infection.
The new regulation has been prompted by a nationwide outbreak of the respiratory disease, largely in California. Last year the state experienced the highest incidence of pertussis in 52 years, at a rate of 23 cases per 100,000 people.
Of the 9,120 cases of whooping cough reported in California in 2010, which was the highest number of cases in 63 years, 375 cases belonged to San Luis Obispo County which was ranked second in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
As of the latest CDPH report dated June 15, San Luis Obispo County has reported 9 cases of pertussis this year.
While the rate of infection appears to be slowing, possibly due to increased booster vaccinations, state public health officials say disease activity levels remain high.
More than 21,000 people were infected with whooping cough across the nation in 2010, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control. The disease took 26 lives including 22 babies.
“Pertussis is highly contagious and can be fatal for young infants,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, public health officer. “The symptoms are typically not as severe in adults, so it often goes untreated and is easily passed to infants who are not fully immunized until they are six months old.
The California Department of Public Health recommends that in order to protect against the disease, children need five doses of “DTaP” by kindergarten and a booster shot of “Tdap” by age 11. All teens and adults should receive a booster shot, especially if exposed to infants.