As Pertussis Spreads, New State Law Mandates Booster Vaccination

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booster-shot State Law Mandates Booster Vaccination Pertussis cases (also known as “Whooping Cough“) has been seen in epidemic numbers in California this year, resulting in the highest number of pertussis cases the state has seen since 1955, including a confirmed case in local schools.

To assist in combating this disease outbreak, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed into law Assembly Bill 354, making a pertussis booster (tetanus/diphtheria/acellular pertussis, or “Tdap”) a mandatory requirement for all school students in grades seven to 12 starting next year.

The City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) will inform local schools of this change, but parents are urged to take immediate action. “Middle and high school children should receive a booster as soon as possible because there is a statewide epidemic, and it’s starting to affect our students,” said City Health Officer Dr. Helene Calvet.

In Long Beach Unified School District, a DTap vaccination (diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis)  is currently required before children enter elementary school, however, the protection it provides decreases over time.  The new law will require Tdap to provide protection for children in middle and high school. A Tdap booster can take the place of a tetanus booster, and is recommended for adults and children 10 and older.

Pertussis is contagious, and is spread by coughing or sneezing. Pertussis causes a severe, long-lasting cough illness in adolescents and adults; complications are rare in this age group, but days to weeks of school or work may be missed. However, complications are more common in infants who get infected before they are fully vaccinated; they can become very ill and require hospitalization or even die from pertussis; nine deaths due to pertussis have been reported in California so far this year, all in infants less than 3 months old.

Tdap is available through many local healthcare providers and at the Health Department.  Health Department vaccine appointments may be made by calling 562.570.4315. For more information on whooping cough, please call the Health Department’s Immunization Program at 562.570.4212 or visit the Long Beach Health Department’s website.

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