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State requires whooping cough vaccine in teens

High school district could lose thousands if students don’t get shot, superintendent says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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By next fall 4,500 local high school students alone have to be vaccinated for whooping cough, but officials are asking parents to get ready now. The California state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 354 into law on Feb. 19, 2009. According to the law, all seventh to 12th-grade students in the state enrolled in the 2011/2012 school year are required to verify they have had a Tdap vaccination before starting classes. Tdap is a booster vaccine that protects older children, adolescents and adults from whooping cough, also called pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria, according to the Placer Union High School District website. Beginning in the 2012/2013 school year, only seventh-graders will be required to show they have had a Tdap booster shot. Colfax High School freshman Maddison Ittner, 14, who received her Tdap shot Wednesday morning, said she agrees with the mandate. “I think it’s good because they are making sure (the diseases) are prevented in schools,” Maddison said. “I’m not sure how everyone is going to react to it.” After her vaccination, Maddison said the shot didn’t hurt. “I barely even felt it,” she said. Laura Van Auker, a Placer Union High School District and Sutter nurse practitioner, said the vaccine is necessary, because whooping cough, which is contagious and can cause violent coughing fits that make it hard to breathe, has been declared an epidemic in California. “From a public health standpoint, our desire is to control the epidemic, and it’s a true epidemic that has had a tremendous impact,” Van Auker said. “We have had an outbreak of pertussis at the schools for the last five years, and any time that happens you have to stay out of school or work for five days.” Whooping cough can be deadly to young infants, Van Auker said. Van Auker said the high school district has put out electronic messages and e-mails to more than 5,000 families, and information about Tdap is available on the district’s website. Van Auker said people were cautious about getting the old form of the vaccine, because it sometimes caused high fevers and seizures, but the new Tdap vaccine does not. It’s best for parents to check with their primary care physicians to find out about the vaccine. Those without health insurance can look into applying for the Vaccines for Children Program or the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program, which may cover the cost of the boosters, Van Auker said. Medi-Cal and most insurance pays for the vaccine, Van Auker said. Although individual schools are not offering vaccine clinics on their campuses, the Placer County Health and Human Services Department is offering the vaccine at its clinics in Auburn, Roseville and Kings Beach, according to the county’s website. If students don’t get the vaccine, they can’t start school, and Superintendent Dave Horsey, of the high school district, said this could mean a loss of thousands of dollars every day. “This first year of this implementation is the seventh to 12th graders,” Horsey said. “If as little as a couple hundred students show up not being immunized … that’s about a $6,000 revenue loss for that day.” Horsey said although the district would like to offer vaccine clinics at its school sites, the funding isn’t there currently. “This is not a pandemic, it’s an epidemic,” he said. “So, there are no federal dollars, like when we had H1N1, to pay for the vaccines.” Randy Ittner, principal of E.V. Cain Middle School, who also received his Tdap booster Wednesday, said he thinks the mandate is important. “You are seeing a rise of whooping cough at schools, and I think if it can be prevented … (students) are in school longer, academically they are going to do better,” Ittner said. “So, it’s just a good thing all around.” Auburn resident Ann Corcoran, whose three children have already received the shot, said she thinks the district and individual schools have done a great job getting the word about the vaccine to parents. Corcoran said she agrees with the mandate. “I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “There are a lot of people who wouldn’t get the vaccination if it wasn’t mandated.” Corcoran said the county recently hosted one of its clinics at Bowman Charter School. “That was huge,” she said. “There were people there who didn’t even have kids. Elderly people came to that clinic.” Carla Krueger, a teacher at Placer Elementary School in Loomis, who has a son at Colfax High School, said she thinks the vaccine is definitely necessary. “I’m a teacher, too, so I have seen quite a few kids with whopping cough,” Krueger said. “I’m all for the vaccine, it’s great. (My son) Paul has an appointment to get it.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------- Information on whooping cough and the Tdap vaccine Placer County Health and Human Services: (530) 889-7141, placer.ca.gov/Departments/hhs.aspx California Department of Public Health: cdph.ca.gov Placer Union High School District: puhsd.k12.ca.us, (530) 886-4400