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Press Release

No Shots, No School for Teens Unprotected Against Whooping Cough

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Contra Costa County is gearing up for a new law that requires students to show proof they are protected against whooping cough before stepping foot in a classroom this fall.

As part of Preteen Vaccination Week from Feb. 13-19, Contra Costa health officials are urging parents and teens to act now and avoid packed doctors offices in the days before school begins. The law requires all seventh- through 12th-grade students in public and private schools to show proof they received a Tdap booster, which includes protection from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.

Contra Costa Health Services Director Dr. William Walker said there has been a statewide outbreak of whooping cough cases over the past year, which why it's important to be up to date on immunizations. Cases in Contra Costa rose from just under 20 in 2009 to more than 200 last year. Whooping cough is an upper respiratory illness that causes severe cold-like symptoms for older children and adults and can be fatal for infants—10 infants died last year in California.

"Many students in grades seven through 12 had their last dose of whooping cough vaccine many years ago," Dr. Walker said in a podcast released today. "Immunity for whooping cough slowly wears off over time and a lot of folks haven't received a booster."

Dr. Walker also urges compliance with the law in a new public service announcement produced by Contra Costa Health Services. The podcast and PSA are available at

Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen said the health department has been working closely with schools to inform parents and help them prepare for this fall.

"Students will need vaccination records to get into school, so it's a good idea to plan ahead," Jenssen said. "Make an appointment early and hold onto your records."

Jenssen said people should first go to their health provider to get the vaccine. People without insurance should check for a list of Public Health Immunization Clinics, where the vaccine is offered for a low fee, which can be waived. She said vaccines are also available at some grocery stores and pharmacies.

To find out more about whooping cough, visit

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Press Contact
  • Kate Fowlie
  • 925-250-2371