Schools try to get students whooping cough vaccine

It could be a challenging summer for school districts across the state as they have to make sure all 7th-12th grade students are vaccinated against whooping cough. Without the shot, the students will not be allowed to return to class in the fall. 

The new requirement is not just the public school system, private school students are also required to get the vaccine. In San Francisco, classes resume on August 15 and the district is warning parents, if their child does not have a proof that he or she got the vaccine, they will not be allowed inside the classroom.

The state says it has good reason to require students to be vaccinated against whopping cough.

"We are currently in an epidemic in California; we've had more cases this year and last year than we have had in over 60 years," San Francisco Health Department spokesperson Lisa Hedden said.

It is now up to the school districts and local health departments to help parents get the vaccine their kids need. So far there have been six clinics held for San Francisco public school students. Still, only 22 percent of them have been vaccinated. That leaves the district with a huge outreach task over the summer.

"We'll be calling them and we will be getting the news out in various ways, the website will be updated daily and communicating through posters everything we could think of so they are aware of the urgency," San Francisco Unified School District spokesperson Heidi Anderson said.

Letters have been sent out and fliers in three languages have been posted.

San Francisco families who think they cannot afford the vaccine should know health care for San Francisco children is free. Parents whose children do not have health care can call 311 for information on how to enroll in the Healthy Kids program.

Whooping cough is a serious respiratory disease that can cause death among infants.
"So younger kids will mostly cough, cough, cough, some will become cyanotic or blue where they stop breathing," pediatrician Dr. Monica Singer said.

Most children get their first series of whooping cough vaccines when they are babies. By the time they reach middle and high school they need a booster, but some parents forget.
And some adults think they do not need it for themselves.

"Especially when we see it in our older patient population, they are spreading it to our children, who are much more vulnerable to the disease," Singer said.

The vaccine is especially important for care givers who take care of. Other districts in the Bay Area, like San Jose Unified, are also reaching out to parents. Just a few weeks ago shots were offered at clinics in Contra Costa County. Walgreens also has the vaccine for $63.99.

(Copyright ©2011 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)