California Mandates Vaccine Booster Shots for Whooping Cough Epidemic

Paula Duffy's picture

The State of California is in the midst of an epidemic of whooping cough which isn't abating. New legislation has just been signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, that will require all seventh-through-12th grade students to get a booster shot prior to entering the 2011 Fall school term.

A bill requiring the booster shots was sitting in the state legislature for a few years, because the law would require the state to pick up the cost for children on the Medi-Cal government funded insurance program. Because of California's budget woes, it was deemed an expense that could be saved in the absence of hard proof that the outbreak of whooping cough couldn't be halted without it.

The latest information pushed the governor to sign the final version of the bill. It revealed that there are more than 5,200 people in California who have been infected, a jump of nearly 20% in a week's time. Additionally, another infant under the age of three months has died from the disease, bringing the current total to nine.

Only one month ago, California health officials issued a warning to medical professionals statewide, regarding how to treat infants with symptoms. Hospitalization was recommended to deal with the fact that early symptoms of whooping cough can be mistaken for a typical bad cold or other upper respiratory condition. As a precaution, lab tests should be performed to rule out the disease in children under the age of six months. That story can be found, here.

Confirmed cases of whooping case in California jumped almost 20% in one week

The current statewide total is the largest since an outbreak in 1950, that infected some 6,600 citizens. It was determined that teens who were never immunized have been a large factor in the spread of the disease. Infants are most at risk of dying from contracting whooping cough since there are no vaccines that are safe for children under the age of nine months.

Adults who were vaccinated as children are also a large reason for the increased numbers that now constitute a bonafide epidemic. Immunity to the disease which is caused by a bacteria, can begin to decline as quickly as five years after the initial vaccination. Just to demonstrate why disease spreads despite warnings and vaccination requirements, the law allows for exemptions. Philosophical objections will be considered from parents who want to take the risk. Students who are allergic will be automatically exempt.

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