Whooping Cough FAQs


In order for your child to attend school this fall the LAW NOW REQUIRES he/she show proof of the Tdap (Pertussis/Whooping Cough) vaccination booster!

The number of people with pertussis (whooping cough) in 2010 was the highest it has been since 1958. Pertussis is a serious contagious disease that causes a severe cough that can last for months. It is not uncommon to develop pneumonia with the disease. Infants are very susceptible to complications from the disease. Ten infants in California died in 2010 from pertussis. Due to these high numbers, legislation was passed in September 2010 that requires students entering 7th-12th grade in 2011-2012 will need to show proof of receiving the Tdap booster before they can attend school. In the following school years, 7th grade students will need to have a Tdap vaccine before they can start school.

There is a good chance your child has already received this immunization. Check your child’s record. If he/she received a DTP or Tdap shot on or after age 7, then this will meet the requirement. It needs to be clearly marked. Td does not meet the requirement. If you cannot tell exactly which vaccine your child received on or after age 7, get it clarified by your child’s doctor. If your child has not received at DTP or Tdap vaccine since he/she entered kindergarten, make an appointment with your child’s doctor to get him/her immunized. Be sure to bring the record to the school to show proof so your child will be able to attend school in the fall.

What is the new Tdap requirement for 7th – 12th graders?

Starting July 2011, a new law (AB 354) changing California immunization requirements for all students entering 7th-12th grades goes into effect. The law requires:

  • This coming school year (2011-2012), all students entering into 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grades will need proof of an adolescent whooping cough booster shot (called “Tdap”) before starting school.
  • For the next school year (2012-13) and future school years, all students entering into 7th grade only will need proof of a Tdap shot to start school.

Do ALL 7th – 12th grade students need to get the “Tdap” shot?

Yes. For this coming school year (2011 – 2012 school year), all students going into 7th – 12th grades must have proof of having had the Tdap booster shot before starting school. This includes current students, new students and transfer students in both public and private schools. Beginning the year after (2012 – 2013 school year), the law will only affect 7th graders. Limited exemptions are allowed.

Why was the Tdap requirement added?

This new requirement will help protect your child and others in your school and community from whooping cough. Whooping cough is a serious disease that causes coughing fits that can last for months. It can be deadly for infants. In recent years, whooping cough has been increasing in the United States. In 2010, whooping cough was widespread in California.

What is Tdap?

Tdap is a booster vaccine for older children, adolescents, and adults. It safely protects against 3 dangerous
diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (also called pertussis).

What are the diseases tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis)?

  • Tetanus – (also called lockjaw) causes painful tightening of the muscles. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw so the person cannot open his/her mouth or swallow.
  • Diphtheria – is a throat infection that can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and death.
  • Whooping cough – (also called pertussis) is a contagious disease that causes violent coughing fits that make it hard to breathe. It spreads easily when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can last for months. Whooping cough is very dangerous for young babies.

When should my child get vaccinated?

Now. A large number of students need a Tdap shot before the start of school next year. Avoid the rush and make sure your child can start school on time. Make an appointment for your incoming 7th – 12th grader to get a Tdap booster shot now. Children as young as 10 years old are recommended to get vaccinated with Tdap. This will protect them against the ongoing threat of whooping cough and will meet the Tdap school
requirement for when they are in 7th grade. Keep documentation of your child’s Tdap booster shot in a safe place. Your child will need proof of immunization in order to start school. Take your child’s record to his/her school.

What if my child has had whooping cough recently or in the past?

Your child will still need a Tdap booster shot. Immunity developed after having whooping cough disease wears off, leaving your child at risk for getting whooping cough again. A Tdap booster shot is needed to both protect your child in the future and to meet the school requirement.

Why should my child get vaccinated?

In addition to it being a new requirement for starting school, children who get a Tdap booster shot will be better protected during their school years. Immunization also helps to protect others within the home, in the community, and at school. Immunizations help to prevent school closures. Many schools in California have suffered from outbreaks of whooping cough. Students got very sick and parents missed work and lost wages to care for their sick children. In some cases, schools had to close because there were not enough healthy teachers to keep schools open.

Where can my child get vaccinated?

Children should visit their regular doctor or health care provider to get their Tdap shot. Children 18 years old and younger who are uninsured or underinsured may qualify for the Vaccines for Children Program. To find a
provider near you, call 1-877-243-8832 or visit: www.eziz.org/pages/vfc_locations2.html. Some local pharmacies and Health Departments may also offer the Tdap vaccine.

What if my child does not have proof of a Tdap shot before school starts?

Not having the vaccine could prevent the student from being able to attend school.

Are immunization exemptions allowed under California law?

The same rules for kindergarten for apply to Tdap; however, you must sign a special exemption form for the Tdap immunization. The form will be available at the schools. For more information, visit the Immunization Law page at www.shotsforschool.org.

What if my child has received a Tdap booster shot before 10 years of age?

Your child will be considered to have met the new school requirement with proof of getting a dose of Tdap on or after their 7th birthday. However, we recommend that children receive Tdap on or after their 10th birthday to provide better protection throughout their adolescent years.

What other immunizations should I consider for my child?

Preteens and teens are also recommended to receive vaccines against meningococcal disease (brain or blood infection), flu (influenza), HPV (human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer), and any vaccine they may have missed during childhood. The recommended vaccine schedule may be found at www.getimmunizedca.org. Talk with your healthcare provider for more information.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information, visit the California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch website at http://www.getimmunizedca.org or call Health Services at 916-643-9412 or 916-643-7419.