LOS ANGELES - To prepare for new California school immunization requirements for the upcoming school year, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health urged parents today to have their children immunized as soon as possible. The new standards, which will take effect on July 1, 2011, will require all 7th-12th graders in public and private schools to show proof that they have received a pertussis booster (Tdap) shot in order to attend classes in the 2011-2012 school year.
"Avoid the back-to-school rush, and make sure your children are protected right away," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "California remains in the midst of a statewide pertussis epidemic. This new school immunization requirement will help protect hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County adolescents and their families from this disease."
In 2010, there were more cases of pertussis reported in California than in any other year since 1947. In Los Angeles County, there was a five-fold increase in pertussis last year, with 872 confirmed cases, compared to 156 in 2009. Of concern is the fact that pertussis claimed the lives of four infants in LA County in 2010, while in a typical year the county only suffers one fatality or none.
"Pertussis is very contagious and spreads easily through coughing. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get vaccinated," said Rebecca Crane, MD, MPH, FAAP, FACP, Department of Family Medicine, Kaiser Permanente.
The pertussis booster (Tdap) shot protects against pertussis, which is sometimes called whooping cough, and two other serious diseases, diphtheria and tetanus. Pertussis is a respiratory infection that causes violent, rapid fits of coughing and can lead to complications such as convulsions, brain hemorrhages, and pneumonia. While adolescents typically have milder symptoms than younger children, they can have a cough for as long as 10 weeks, be hospitalized for pneumonia, and miss weeks of school. They can also easily spread the disease to infants, who are at greatest risk for complications.
Information about the new requirement:
Under the new law, all students entering into 7th-12th grades for the 2011-2012 school year will need to provide proof that they received a pertussis booster (Tdap) shot on or after their seventh birthday. For the next school year and future years, only students entering into seventh grade will need proof of a Tdap dose to start school. DTaP vaccines received before the seventh birthday, Td vaccines, and DT vaccines do not meet the school requirement. Some students may be exempted from this requirement if there is a valid medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated or if a parent chooses to exempt them due to their personal beliefs, but this leaves the adolescent at risk for catching and spreading pertussis.
Other recommended vaccines: In addition to the Tdap booster shot, Public Health recommends that all adolescents receive an annual influenza vaccine and that 11-12 year olds receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine, along with a booster dose between 16 and 18 years of age. In 2009, fewer than two out of three youth 13-17 years of age had been vaccinated against meningitis. Certain high-risk children between the ages of two to 10 should also receive the vaccine. These vaccines boost immunity, protect against serious diseases that adolescents may encounter as they transition into adulthood, and prevent teens from spreading disease to other vulnerable individuals. The vaccination visit also provides a chance for adolescents to discuss other preventive practices including the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
"The new law does not take effect until the 2011-2012 school year, but adolescents should get their pertussis booster shot now to protect them now, avoid delays in starting school, and prevent long waits or delays in the fall," Dr. Fielding said. "Since parents will need to show their child's school proof that their child received the required Tdap vaccine, we are encouraging them to keep the immunization record in a safe, accessible place."
Los Angeles County residents are encouraged to contact their regular healthcare provider to arrange for Tdap and other recommended vaccinations for their children. Those who do not have a regular healthcare provider or any type of health insurance coverage for vaccines may dial 2-1-1 or visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip for referrals to providers offering immunizations at no-charge or at a reduced-charge.
For additional information about pertussis vaccinations and the new pertussis booster (Tdap) requirement, visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip.
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or check us out on Twitter or Facebook at LAPublicHealth.