Some California School Children at High Risk for Whooping Cough Despite Vaccination Law

A new California law requires all students entering grades seven through 12 to provide proof of vaccination for pertussis, or whooping cough. The law offers exemptions for students who submit either a medical waiver or a belief exemption signed by a parent or guardian. Students who fail to provide such documentation must be sent home from school.

Health and education officials say vaccination rates are higher than expected. However, they warn that some children still could be at risk because most of the personal belief exemptions tend to be clustered in certain areas.

In a California Healthline Special Report by Deirdre Kennedy, experts discussed the state’s efforts to prevent the spread of whooping cough.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Linda Davis-Alldritt, a school nurse consultant for the California Department of Education;
  • Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Marin County Public Health Officer;
  • Catherine Martin, director of the California Immunization Coalition; and
  • David Witt, chief of infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Marin.

The co-authors of the pertussis vaccination mandate bill — Republican Assembly members Nathan Fletcher of San Diego and Dan Logue of Linda — say they are considering new legislation to address the public health risks of having unvaccinated students in schools (Kennedy, California Healthline, 10/21).

The complete transcript of this report is available as a PDF.

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