Education Matters: Many La Jolla teens still need whooping cough booster

By Marsha Sutton

As students in the San Diego Unified School District prepare to return to school on Sept. 6, a new requirement for admittance still needs to be met by about one-third of the district’s 60,000 seventh- to 12th-graders, according to the latest information from local officials. Assembly Bill 354, signed into law September 2010, requires all incoming students in grades 7-12 to show proof of having received the Tdap whooping cough booster shot by the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Acceptable proof is a copy of immunization records or a note from the student’s doctor.

As of Aug. 18, about 21,000 SDUSD students still need to show proof.

At La Jolla High School, 335 students out of a total enrollment of about 1,650 have not met the requirement, although these figures do not reflect students registering for school in the past two weeks who may have recently submitted their booster documentation.

At Muirlands Middle School, 541 students have not met the requirement. The school’s total enrollment is about 1,100 for grades 6-8, or about 370 per grade. Only students in middle school entering seventh and eighth grades are required to receive the Tdap booster, which means 541 students out of about 740 still need to show proof.

Numbers still changing

SDUSD communications director Linda Zintz said these numbers for both La Jolla schools are the latest official numbers but are not quite up to date, with nurses processing Tdap paperwork daily.

She said the news has been widely disseminated to parents, beginning last spring, through emails, newsletters, school Web sites, the district Web site, school marquees, automated robo-calls and other methods of communication. Another round of e-mails and telephone calls is planned for this week, to all the remaining students who have not yet met the requirement.

“We’re letting them know about the new law and what their responsibility is and when it’s going to take effect,” Zintz said.

Although parents are being told that students need proof of the booster by the start of school, passage of a second bill, Senate Bill 614, grants districts the option to extend the deadline for 30 more days from the first day of school, making the actual deadline in SDUSD Oct. 6.

“They do have the 30-day option, but our message is for them not to wait, to do it now,” Zintz said. “We all understand it’s human nature to put things off, so we don’t want parents to wait until October 5 to take care of it.” 
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, has encouraged parents to vaccinate their children as soon as possible, to avoid long lines and difficulty getting appointments at the last minute.

Zintz said significant progress is being made during these final weeks of registration, noting a marked increase in the required paperwork as the start of school draws closer.

Students would not be able to attend school, Zintz said, if by Oct. 6 they still do not have proof of receiving the Tdap, a letter from their doctor, or a waiver.

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