Thousands of students still lack proof of whooping cough booster


By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Writer

As students in the San Dieguito Union High School District prepare to return to school on Aug. 30, a new requirement for admittance has only been met by half the district’s students.

Assembly Bill 354, signed into law September 2010, requires all incoming seventh- to 12th-grade students to show proof of having received a whooping cough booster shot (also called Tdap) by the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Acceptable proof is a copy of immunization records or a note from the student’s doctor.

Even though this news has been widely disseminated, only about 5,800 of the district’s approximately 12,000 students have submitted proof to date, said Rick Schmitt, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of educational services.

Although a message from schools notified parents that students will not receive their high school class schedules during Readiness Days this week unless proper documentation is submitted, Schmitt said that’s not quite true. AB-354 gives students until the first day of school to meet the requirement.

And with the later passage of a second bill granting a deadline extension, information on the district’s Web site stating that students must show proof of the booster in order to start school is also not completely accurate.

Senate Bill 614, passed after AB-354, grants districts the option to extend the deadline for 30 more days from the first day of school, making the actual deadline in San Dieguito Sept. 30.

“Ultimately no kid is going to be kept out of class on Aug. 30 if they don’t present evidence of a waiver or a vaccine,” Schmitt said. But he said the district will strictly enforce the requirement if students still do not have proof by Sept. 30, and will exclude them from attending school.

“We’re not going to have something happen that somebody gets exposed,” he said, expressing confidence that all students will be able to meet the deadline.

Schmitt said the district is trying to motivate families to submit the proper documents before the start of school to avoid a last-minute rush or a potential expulsion.

“Like any other vaccination that families are required to do, they have to do this one too,” he said. “It’s the same as when they show up for kindergarten, and they have to do it. It’s no different.”

Booster by age 7

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is particularly serious in children. Information on the district’s Web site states: “In recent years, whooping cough has been increasing in the United States. In 2010, whooping cough was epidemic in California.”

Having had whooping cough does not protect children against future infection, so a booster shot is still required, according to authorities. Waivers are available for parents who for religious reasons choose not to immunize their children with the Tdap booster.

According to the SDUHSD Web site, any child who has received the Tdap booster shot at age 7 or later will be considered to have met the requirement. Documentation submitted to the schools is still necessary.

Schmitt said the district can refer cash-strapped families to clinics that charge on a sliding scale.

Questions can be directed to San Dieguito school nurse MaryAnne Dittman (760-753-6491, extension 5587).

The San Diego Immunization Program Web site [] offers links to resources and services for the Tdap and other vaccinations.

The California Department of Public Health also offers information on the Tdap requirement for students at the following Web sites: