TDAP vaccination required for grades 7-12

In 2010, California had 9,273 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough—the highest total in the state since 1947. As a result, the state of California is requiring all students grades 7-12 in both public and private schools to provide proof of a current pertussis vaccination, known as the TDAP booster, which vaccinates for tetanus, diphtheria, and accullular pertussis. By making the immunizations mandatory, California hopes to slow the rapid spread of pertussis. In order to attend school next year, all Tam students must provide the school with proof of an up-to-date pertussis vaccination.

“We’re going to work with the nurse and in compliance with the new requirement. The school just wants to make sure all the students are healthy,” said assistant principal Kim Stiffler.

Whooping cough is an extremely contagious bacterial sickness that can cause hospitalization and/or coughing attacks that can occur periodically for months. While it is usually not life-threatening, ten lives were claimed in 2010 by whooping cough. Babies are more susceptible to pertussis, and nine of the ten deaths last year were infants.

“Teens and adults may not be killed by it, but we are the ones that spread it. Also, some people can break ribs from coughing so hard,” said school nurse Wanda Milford.

There is no immediate cure for pertussis itself, and high rates of the illness have led to lower tests for pertussis. “There aren’t blood tests anymore. They just treat the symptoms,” said Milford.

The best form of prevention is vaccination, which wears off over time and must be renewed to be effective. Five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccination should have been taken by kindergarten, and the TDAP booster is used later on to maintain immunization. The DTaP is 59-89% effective in preventing pertussis. Despite this effectiveness, vaccination rates are low, a contributing factor to the high infection rates.

Side effects of the TDAP booster shot include body aches, chills, fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and redness, swelling, and soreness around the injection area. These side effects do not always occur, and only last for a few days when they do happen.

Marin was hit hard by the whooping cough outbreak. In 2010, Marin had 350 cases of pertussis, a rate of 137.97 per 100,000 people, the second highest rate of all of California’s counties, and far higher than the statewide rate of 23.69 per 100,000. This high rate is reflected at Tam. “Several students have come in with persistent coughs and fevers,” said Milford.

“It’s a good thing the state is making students get vaccinated. Whooping cough is a very nasty sickness and student immunization will hopefully keep it away from the school,” said Milford.

Written by Benji Landress.  This article originally appeared in brief in the July 2011 issue.