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Back-to-school means immunizations

Posted: August 8, 2014 7:00 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2014 7:00 p.m.

With California in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic, and school bells set to sound throughout the Santa Clarita Valley next week, students and parents are urged to make sure immunizations are up to date.

While children can be immunized against the disease, incoming seventh graders are required to have a booster shot for the disease, technically known as “pertussis.”

“About 20 or 30 years ago they developed a whooping cough vaccine that didn’t have as many side effects as the older one,” said Dr. Loraine Stern of Valencia Pediatric Associates. “However, they found that with less side effects comes less efficacy, so now we’re finding we have to give a booster shot to adolescents.”

The William S. Hart Union High School District does outreach to families to inform them of the booster shot requirement, according to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

“The best line of defense on this easily spread disease is immunization, and that is our recommendation,” Pinsker wrote in an email. “The health and safety of our students is our No. 1 priority.”

As of Monday, the total number of whooping cough cases in the state so far this year was 6,930, according to the California Department of Public Health. By comparison, the total number of reported cases in 2013 was 2,531.

“Vaccination is the best form of protection,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a statement. “We’re encouraging all parents to vaccinate their children, and for pregnant women to be vaccinated to protect their babies. This will ensure maximum protection against this potentially fatal disease.”

Whooping cough is highly contagious and characterized by fits of coughing that can make it hard to breathe, sleep, eat or drink, according to health officials.

The disease gets its common name because of the “whooping” sound an infected person makes gasping for air after a coughing fit and can be spread through the air when people cough.

Whooping cough often begins with symptoms like those of a common cold before worsening after a week or two.
County health officials advise those with a regular health-care provider should contact their doctors for immunization services.

Information on clinics in Los Angeles County that offer no-cost or low-cost immunization services for children 18 years old and younger can be found online at

For referrals to immunization providers, dial the Los Angeles County information line: 2-1-1.

Signal intern Shannon Hoofman contributed to this story.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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