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L.A. Unified seeks more time for students to get whooping cough vaccine

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy asks Gov. Jerry Brown to give students more time to either prove they've received a whooping cough vaccine or to get vaccinated, a requirement of a new California law.

July 14, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Mario Arceo, 17, gets whooping cough shot at Huntington Park High School. Thousands of Los Angeles Unified students who began school at year-round campuses recently, had not met a new deadline for getting the whooping cough vaccine.
Mario Arceo, 17, gets whooping cough shot at Huntington Park High School.… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Local education officials are backing emergency state legislation that would give students more time to get vaccinated for whooping cough, a new requirement for California students in grades 7 through 12.

The bill would give students 30 days after their academic year begins either to obtain the vaccine or provide proof of vaccination.

"The existing legislation, which went into effect July 1, has not provided sufficient time for school districts, local health authorities, and parents to comply with its requirements," Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown. "At LAUSD, we learned this firsthand."

The hope is to avert problems that emerged when 8,700 students at five Los Angeles Unified campuses started attending classes on July 5. Most of those students were unable to provide proof that they had been vaccinated.

Those campuses are among a proportionally small number that operate year-round, and they offered a window into what could happen in the fall. At Huntington Park High, 76% of the 2,420 students had not met the requirement. A week later — and after a brief grace period — some 600 students at the five campuses can't go to school, even after the district compromised by accepting permission slips for students to receive the shot at school.

Among schools starting in August or September, about 35% of students have submitted proof of vaccination, among more than 234,000 secondary students in the state's largest school system.

"I am gravely concerned that without the extension, the first week of classes at those schools will be chaotic," Deasy wrote, urging Brown to sign the legislation if it passes as expected. "At the same time, the loss of state money due to students being sent home will cause a further financial burden to a district that has already been devastated by budget cuts."

L.A. Unified loses about $31 a day for every student who isn't in class.

The district briefly ran out of the vaccine, which is delivered in the form of the Tdap booster shot. Schools are now well-supplied — at least until much larger numbers of students return, said Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, L.A. Unified's director of student medical services.

Uyeda added that a majority of students are likely to have been vaccinated by the time school starts, and she urged families to submit proof before the first day of school.

howard.blume@latimes.com

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