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Whooping Cough Vaccine Law May Prevent Calif. Students From Attending School

Vaccination

First Posted: 04/26/11 04:44 PM ET Updated: 06/26/11 06:12 AM ET

In the midst of one of the worst whooping cough epidemics our country has seen in half a century, the majority of California's schoolchildren may not be vaccinated against the disease -- and that may bar them from attending school.

AP recently reported that there were over 21,000 cases of whooping cough in the U.S. last year, and experts are unsure as to the cause. NBC News reported that at least 7,800 of those cases happened in California -- the highest since 1947.

In response, California's AB 354 was passed in September of last year, making proof of whooping cough vaccinations mandatory for both public and private school students starting in the 2011-12 school year. However, health representatives told Mercury News that the law makes most students ineligible for attendance.

Melinda Landau, a health manager for the San Jose Unified School District, told Mercury News that the if the rule was implemented tomorrow, only 4,500 out of the district's 16,000 would be able to attend school. She said that the drastic statistic may help parents remember the importance of vaccinations.

"Most of us have grown up in a time that we didn't have friends with these diseases, so people tend to forget that these vaccine-preventable diseases can be really, really deadly."

Whooping cough can last months in infected persons. If spread to infants or small children, it may become mortally serious.

In some school districts, health nurses told Mercury News that as few as 1 in 10 students are vaccinated against whooping cough. In a state that has over 3 million K-12 students, the impact may be overwhelming.

Some unvaccinated students may still attend school if parents sign "personal belief exemption" waivers. However, if an emergency is declared, those students may be required to stay home.

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Filed by Carly Gillis  |