Whooping cough (pertussis) has been widespread in California since 2010. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system that can cause episodes of severe coughing. Children are routinely vaccinated against pertussis, however, immunity wanes five to ten years after the last vaccination, leaving adolescents vulnerable to infection. The bacterium is spread by airborne droplets, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The California Department of Public Health recommends that all Californians, 10 years and older receive a booster shot against whooping Cough.

Beginning July 1, 2011, as outlined in the California Assembly Bill 354, this law requires students to be immunized against whooping Cough. The required vaccine is referred to as Tdap and all students entering the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grades will be required to show proof that they received a “pertussis booster (Tdap)” shot before entry into the 2011-12 school year. It is important that students see their doctors and get immunized. Getting Tdap now will not only meet the new school requirement, but it will also protect our children from the constant threat of whooping Cough.

The new school requirement will apply to all public and private schools, and school district members are urging parents not to wait for the new fall school year. To meet the requirement, adolescents must have received a Tdap shot on or after their 10th birthday even if they have had whooping Cough. This is because a person who has had pertussis can get the disease again. Students will be required to provide proof of Tdap booster shot prior to or during school registration.

A student may be exempted from this requirement if there is a valid medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated, or if a parent chooses to exempt them due to their personal beliefs. A waiver must be signed by a parent and brought to the school. It should be noted that failure to be immunized leaves the adolescent at risk for catching and spreading whooping Cough. In the event of an outbreak, students who have not received the vaccine will be excluded from school for their own safety and protection.

To meet the requirement of State law, all students must present proof of immunization or a signed waiver upon entering school in the fall. Some children may qualify for free immunizations through the Vaccines for Children Program.

From the State of California—Health and Human Services Agency

California Department of Public Health:

SUBJECT: Pertussis (aka Whooping Cough)

For the 2011-12 school year only, all students entering 7th through 12th grades will

need proof of a Tdap booster shot before starting school. This requirement begins July 1, 2011.

1) Recent Infant Deaths Associated with Delayed Diagnosis
2) Immunization of Patients, Health Care Workers and Others

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the people in California. Pertussis (whooping cough) is currently an epidemic in California. Pertussis during early infancy is frequently severe and potentially fatal. Seven California infants, all younger than three months of age, are known to have died from pertussis so far in 2010. In most of the fatal cases, pertussis was not diagnosed until after multiple visits to outpatient clinics, the emergency room, or inpatient wards. CDPH is sending this letter to facilities to support the timely diagnosis of pertussis.


The diagnosis of pertussis in young infants is often delayed because its onset – coryza (runny nose) with little or no fever or cough -- is deceptively mild. These symptoms are followed by coughing spells, often unrecognized, that may lead to apnea, hypoxia and seizures. Severe pertussis in infants can progress rapidly. Therefore, pertussis should be considered in infants with:

Cough illness
Post-tussive vomiting
Gagging, gasping
Facial color changes (blue, purple or red) when coughing or breathing impaired
Respiratory distress

A portion of Assembly Bill 354:

AB 354, Arambula. Health: immunizations. Existing law prohibits the governing authority of a school or other institution from unconditionally admitting any person as a pupil of any private or public elementary or secondary school, child care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center, unless prior to his or her first admission to that institution he or she has been fully immunized against various diseases, including hepatitis B, pertussis (whooping cough), and varicella (chickenpox), and any other disease deemed appropriate by the State Department of Public Health, taking into consideration the recommendations of specified entities.  

This bill would add to these entities the American Academy of Family Physicians. This bill would also, in part, remove certain of the age and date restrictions. Existing law makes these provisions, as they relate to varicella (chickenpox), operative only to the extent that funds are appropriated in the annual Budget Act, and authorizes the department to adopt emergency regulations, as specified. This bill would, regarding the varicella (chickenpox) provisions,delete the requirement that it be operative only to the extent that funds are appropriated in the annual Budget Act, and delete the department's authorization to adopt emergency regulations. Existing law prohibits the governing authority from unconditionally admitting, or advancing, a pupil into the 7th grade unless the pupil has been fully immunized against hepatitis B.

This bill would delete immunizations against hepatitis B as a 7th grade admission or advancement requirement and would, instead,prohibit the governing authority from unconditionally admitting, or advancing, a pupil into the 7th and, for one year, the 8th through 12th grades unless the pupil has been fully immunized, as prescribed, including, but not limited to, having received all pertussis boosters appropriate for that age. By requiring school districts to comply with these requirements, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to these statutory provisions.

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