Thursday, July 14, 2011 | A new law requiring every California student from the seventh through 12th grades to get a whooping cough vaccine booster is turning out to be a tall order in Orange County.
Some 280,000 Orange County students are required to get the innoculation, commonly known as Tdap. As of the end of the school year, districts had reported compliance levels ranging from a low of 20 percent in Capistrano Unified School District to a high of 75 percent in the La Habra City School District, according to Pamela Kahn, coordinator of health and wellness at the Orange County Department of Education.
The law forbids students to attend classes if they do not have proof of vaccination on the first day of school. On Thursday, however, the Legislature granted a 30-day extension.
So far, slightly fewer than half of students in the Santa Ana Unified School District have received a Tdap booster, leaving about 12,000 to get their shots before school starts August 24, said Doreen Lohnes, the district’s assistant superintendent of support services.
Santa Ana schools have been publicizing the Tdap requirement since October, Lohnes said. Outreach efforts have included calls to every parent, mailings, flyers, notices on school marquees, talks with parent groups and community health agencies, emails, and advertisements in pharmacies and on school websites, all in English and Spanish.
The district soon will send another notification to parents, this one including a consent form that officials hope students will bring with them when they pick up their school schedules during the second week in August. Shots will be available on-site.
“We have been as proactive about this as anybody could be,” Lohnes said. “My experience is families are very busy and don’t attend to things like this until the last minute.”
Some schools are finding creative ways to ensure compliance, said Kahn. For example, medics from Camp Pendleton will be at San Clemente High School on Aug. 28 to administer the shots.
Kahn advised parents to check immunization records to see whether their child has received the booster in recent years.
For more information, see the website Shotsforschool.org, which lists community clinics that are giving the shots at no charge. Information for the Santa Ana district is here.
— AMY DEPAUL
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