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Walnut Creek parents urged to get their kids the whooping cough vaccine

Whether you are wary about the usefulness or safety of vaccines, your choices are limited. A new state law requires that all 7th through 12th graders be vaccinated with the "Tdap"--pertussis booster-- when they start the new 2011-12 school year.

Over the past year, Walnut Creek Intermediate Kevin Collins has sent e-bulletin notices to parents explaining how a new state law will require that they show proof their kids, entering 7th through 12th grade, have been vaccinated against whooping cough.

His warning applies to students in all public and private high schools in California. Kids who can't show proof of being vaccinated won't be allowed to go to school when it starts August of 2011.  

Collins' noted that fewer than 20 percent of sixth and seventh graders at Walnut Creek Intermediate can show proof of having received the vaccine. 

Both he, Superintendent Patricial Wool and public health officials warn that California is dealing with a whooping cough epidemic. In 2011, 9,000 people across the state and 200 in Contra Costa were diagnosed with whooping cough said,  Contra Costa County Health Services Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen.  

Four infants statewide died. 

Children younger than six months months of age are especially vulnerable because of the small size of their lungs. Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In advanced stages, it's marked by a severe, hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop." Whooping cough starts off like a cold, with a runny nose, mild fever and dry cough but after about a week it advances to a hacking cough that can provoke vomiting and breathing difficulties. 

In early April, I posted Collins' latest e-bulletin regarding Assembly Bill 354, the new state law that makes whooping cough immunizations mandatory for all California students. Several people, in the comment section of that article, voiced objections to the "scare tactics" used by school and public health officials to get kids immunized.

"So often vaccinations are pushed on parents using scare tactics and pediatricians and health care providers often guilt trip parents into believing there is no other way," wrote "Marie." "It disturbs me how often this occurs, and no one ever mentions the exemptions or waiver you can sign to "opt' out." 

I called the school district to ask if they have received any calls from parents, indicating that they want to opt out of the requirement--which, yes, you can do.

Assembly Bill 354 allows exemptions "for verified medical conditions or personal beliefs," according to the state Department of Public Health. 

The school district referred calls to Jennsen, who said that 2 percent of kindergarten students in Contra Costa County have exemptions for all  types of vaccines.

Children typically begin to receive the pertussis vaccine as infants, at 2, 4 and six months of age, and at 1 year, Jennsen said. They also receive a booster before starting kindergarten and around 9 or 10 years of age. 

The Tdap booster is preservative free and "very safe," Jennsen said. It also provides protection against diptheria, tetanus. 

Legally, a student's showing proof of being vaccinated goes into effect July 1, but school officials say you can show proof before that date but definitely before school starts in August. The requirement applies to all private and public schools. Students can meet it by receiving one dose of the Tdap vaccine on or after their 7th birthday. 

Your child's doctor should have the immunization records. Kaiser Permanente members can view their child's immunization record online to verify if their child has already received the Tdap booster.  A printout of the Kaiser immunization record is acceptable at proof of the Tdap  vaccination.

Walnut Creek School District parents who need more information can contact the district's nurse, Oonagh McAndrew, at 944-6850 x 2013 orOMcAndrew@wcsd.k12.ca.us if you need further information.

ecgs May 03, 2011 at 03:48 AM
I cannot imagine what I would do if my very vulnerable newborn were to contract whooping cough from another child whose parents refused to get him or her vaccinated because they bought into this totally unscientific nonsense about vaccines being unsafe. Unsafe? Try polio. Or small pox. Remember those? That's what I call unsafe.
Brian May 04, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Ms. Ross, why did you write that unvaccinated students won't be allowed in school, but later admit that parents can sign a personal beliefs exemption? Were you hoping that the reader wouldn't get that far? If a parent doesn't want their 7-12 grade child to get the whooping cough vaccine, they can sign the Personal Beliefs Exemption form at the school. http://eziz.org/PDF/IMM-1038_PBEforminstructions.pdf If they don't agree with the wording on the form, California law says they simply need to write a letter "stating that the immunization is contrary to his or her beliefs." http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=hsc&group=120001-121000&file=120325-120380 (section 120365) The package insert should be read in full before deciding on whether or not to get the vaccine. There are two brands, and here are their package inserts. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/UCM152842.pdf http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM142764.pdf

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