7th Graders Need Pertussis Vaccine to Return to School

Students might be busy enjoying the summer break and not thinking about vaccines; however, County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) officials are urging parents to ensure their 11- and 12-year-old children have been immunized against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, before they get back to school.

“Immunizations help keep children healthy at home and at school,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “Parents should check in with their medical provider now to make sure that their kids are caught up on immunizations and can start school on time.”

Last year, a new law went into effect requiring a whooping cough booster shot or Tdap before middle and high school students could re-enter school.

This year, all students going into 7th grade will be required to show proof of having received the pertussis booster shot or they will not be allowed in school. This includes current students, new students and transfer students in both public and private schools. Students who have already received the vaccine simply need to supply proof to the school.

To date, the number of pertussis cases jumped to 68 in the county.  This includes two case where there was a potential for exposure to the public: a 14-year-old student at Sweetwater High School who was up-to-date with immunizations and a 4-month-old at Naval Air Station North Island Child Development Center who was up to date for age, but not old enough to have the full five DTap series of shots.  A total of 436 pertussis cases were reported last year.

“Vaccinated students who still contract pertussis generally have milder cases of the disease than those who are unvaccinated,” added Wooten. 

The California School Immunization Law also requires children to receive other immunizations to be admitted to school or childcare. Parents are advised to see their primary care physicians for immunization schedule. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a good time for children, and adults, to get the recommended vaccines against infectious diseases.

Parents can obtain the vaccines, including the Tdap booster shot, for themselves and their children through their primary care physicians. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone who is not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at little or no cost.

For more information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit    

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact