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School Nurse Advises Getting Booster Shots Now For Students

POSTED December 15, 2010 1:46 a.m.

A state law that requires students currently in sixth through eleventh grades must have their whooping cough (pertussis) booster shots prior to starting school next year has the Oakdale Joint Unified School District urging parents to take care of it now. If students don’t have shot records showing proof, they won’t be allowed to enroll in school.

OJUSD school nurse Diane Stevenson said that AB 354 requires all students going into seventh through twelfth grades to have a “Tdap” booster for whooping cough prior to entering school next year.

“This means that every sixth through eleventh grader needs to bring us their shot record this school year so that we can mark off that they have fulfilled this requirement,” Stevenson said. “Those who do not do this cannot start school next year and will not get their new school schedules at registration in August (2011).”

Stevenson said that shot records are slowly “trickling” in, but noted that it’s important that parents have their children immunized and present those records to their child’s school health office this school year.

“This affects approximately 2,000 students in our district, and is a huge undertaking for the Health Services Department in our district,” she said.

She reported that the district collects immunization records when students start kindergarten, but for this next school year they’ll also need proof of current immunization for pertussis with the Tdap vaccine for students who are 10 years old and older.

“We want those shot records prior to school,” Stevenson said.

She reiterated the importance of having parents take care of this matter during this school year. She said that no one is on campus during the summer to enter the information into the school’s system, and by the time school starts next year, it will be very busy and if students haven’t had their booster shot for pertussis, their families will be scrambling to get it done.

“We just want everybody to go out and get their shots,” Stevenson said. “Even adults should be getting these vaccines.”

She said that new parents, grandparents, and any adult who is around children should also get a booster shot so that they don’t get it and so that they don’t spread it. She said that many adults probably haven’t had their whooping cough vaccinations since they were in kindergarten. She added that some staff members had whooping cough last year and that parents aren’t required to report if their children have whooping cough.

“We’ve had parents reporting in that their child has been diagnosed with whooping cough,” Stevenson said. “Not a lot, (but) it is out there.”

Whooping cough is most detrimental to small children, Stevenson said. She said they want students to get the vaccine so they don’t spread the highly contagious respiratory tract infection, which is marked by a hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, known as the “whoop.” It is spread via air droplets, so she recommends that people cover their coughs, use hand sanitizer, and “wash their hands, wash their hands, wash their hands” to help prevent its spread.

The school district has sent out a letter to parents in the district and will be utilizing the dialer system to also get the word out and take care of it before the end of the school year. Stevenson suggested that having children immunized over the Christmas break would be a good time to do it, then parents can bring the records to their child’s school so the information can be entered into the system.

Families may take their children to their family doctor or to the public health department to have them immunized. There will be a Public Health clinic on Monday, Dec. 20 from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Waterford Community Center, 540 C St., Waterford, where people can just walk in and the Tdap costs $10. However, no person will be turned away for inability to pay. Also, the Public Health immunization clinic at 830 Scenic Dr., Suite C, Modesto, is open through Dec. 23 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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