California is currently experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the worst epidemic of whooping cough in 60 years. The diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine (DTaP) can help prevent this disease and is given in five doses at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years of age. To protect California's children, a new law now requires 7th through 12th grade students to get a Tdap booster vaccine -- before starting school.
"Most children receive vaccines that protect them from whooping cough in early childhood, but the booster is necessary to maintain the protection through the teenage years," said Dr. Wilbert Mason, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Pertussis, often referred to as whooping cough, causes coughing spells so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink, or breathe. These spells can last for weeks and can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. In 2010, there were more cases of pertussis reported in California than in any other year since 1947. In Los Angeles County alone, cases of pertussis increased by more than five times, with 920 confirmed cases in 2010, compared to 156 in 2009. The disease also claimed the lives of four infants last year, whereas the county typically experiences one or no fatalities per year.
Vaccine Requirements for Students:
-All students entering 7th through 12th grades for the 2011-2012 school year must provide proof that they received a Tdap booster vaccine on, or after, their 7th birthday.
-For the next school year and future years, only students entering into 7th grade will need proof of a Tdap dose to start school.
-DTaP, Td and DT do not meet the school requirement. Parents are encouraged to check with their child's physician or clinic and seek the correct Tdap vaccine before their child starts 7th grade.
In addition to Tdap, there are other vaccines recommended for adolescents, including the meningococcal vaccine, a second chickenpox vaccine (if they never had chickenpox disease) and the HPV vaccine series. It is also recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a seasonal flu vaccine.
Call your doctor or clinic to learn if your child's vaccines are up to date or learn more at www.VaccinateLA.com or by calling 211. Stay Healthy. Vaccinate.