No whooping cough booster? No class, school officials say

Twenty students in the Lucia Mar Unified School District still need to receive a booster shot protecting against whooping cough or they won’t be able to attend school Monday, the South County district’s nurse said.

A state law requires all students in seventh through 12th grades to get a whooping cough booster shot or a signed exemption within 30 days of the first day of school.

Students in the Lucia Mar district were the first in the county to head back to school, but the 30-day deadline is looming for students in the county’s other nine school districts. The law also applies to students in private schools.

Last year, San Luis Obispo County had the highest rate of whooping cough, or pertussis, in the state. There were 374 confirmed, probable or suspected cases. That’s a rate of 139.5 cases per 100,000 people, said county Communicable Disease Manager Christine Gaiger.

As of August, there have been 11 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of the highly contagious bacterial illness in the county, Gaiger said. In 2010 in California, 9,143 cases of whooping cough were reported to the California Department of Public Health — the most cases reported in 63 years. Ten infants died of the disease last year.

Disease activity levels remain high this year, but the number of cases has dropped significantly from 2010, with 2,164 cases reported as of Aug. 10.

Those most susceptible to the disease are elderly people and infants. Children receive five doses of the vaccine, but it wanes with time, Gaiger said.

On Monday, Lucia Mar seventh- through 12th- grade students without proof of a whooping cough booster shot, called Tdap, will be sent home, said district nurse Linda Hogoboom. Parents can also sign an exemption for their children based on a medical condition or a personal belief, she said.

District administrators and staff at Lucia Mar’s elementary, middle and high schools have been working for months to get the word out to the 5,195 students who needed the vaccine, Hogoboom said.

“It was a long, intensive push to get this done,” she said. “We’ll see what happens Monday.”

How to get vaccinated

The county Public Health Department offers whooping cough vaccinations at three sites: in Grover Beach at 286 S. 16th St.; Paso Robles at 723 Walnut Drive; and San Luis Obispo at 2191 Johnson Ave. The department is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For an appointment at the Grover Beach location, call 473-7050; for Paso Robles, call 237-3050; and for San Luis Obispo, call 781-5500. For more information, go to www.slopublichealth.org and click on: Pertussis (whooping cough).

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast has on its website a list of locations, days and times students can receive the booster shot. For more information, go to www.communityhealthcenters.org/en/chc-events/136-tdap-clinic.html or call 866-614-4636.