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Free shots of required whooping cough vaccine available next week

August 3, 2012 |  8:07 am

Whooping cough vaccine

Free pertussis vaccines are available next week to students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The vaccine, also called Tdap, is required of all students, starting in seventh grade, for admission to class.

Last year thousands of students arrived for the start of the school year without proof of being vaccinated; at Huntington Park High alone 76% of students lacked the vaccine. A law was passed giving students a 30-day grace period to get the vaccine, but no delay is allowed for the upcoming school year.

By now, only some transfer students and some rising seventh-graders are likely to have missed the vaccine. But for them time is running out, with the early Aug. 14 start of the school year looming in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Tdap is a booster vaccine for older children, adolescents, and adults. It protects against tetanus and diphtheria as well as whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that can persist for months. Lawmakers began to require the shot because whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has been increasing in the United States and caused 10 infant deaths in 2010. Infants can catch the disease from non-immunized older siblings.

The vaccine push appears to have paid off. There were no California deaths from whooping cough in 2011, a first in two decades. The number of pertussis cases also plummeted from about 9,154 in 2010 to 2,795 in 2011, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Locations to get free shots include: Zelzah District Nursing Clinic at 6505 Zelzah Ave. in Reseda; Bret Harte Prep Middle School at 9301 S. Hoover St. in Vermont Vista;  Eagle Rock High School at 1750 Yosemite Drive in Eagle Rock; Mark Twain Middle School at 2224 Walgrove Ave. in Venice, and Edison Middle School at 6500 Hooper St. in Florence-Firestone.

Other school systems also are getting the word out. Jurupa Unified, for example, in Jurupa Valley isn’t providing shots but is advising parents to get the shots from a family physician, a Kaiser health center or markets and drug stores. The district also provides contact information for local public health clinics.

More information about whooping cough can be obtained from the California Department of Public Health.

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-- Howard Blume 

Photo: Free pertussis vaccines are available next week to students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli /Associated Press

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