Whooping cough: How not to get tough with schools
The law was passed, the parents were notified, then notified again, and yet again. Vaccination clinics were opened at schools. Yet is anyone surprised that the July 1 deadline for whooping-cough booster shots passed with a huge number of the affected students -- seventh to 12th graders -- still not vaccinated?
After California reported more than 9,000 cases of whooping cough last year -- numbers also are up this year -- the state passed legislation requiring the booster shots for older students. The preteens and teens are supposed to have their proof of vaccination in hand on the very first day of school, or be sent home until they get it.
How's that working out? The state got a whiff of the answer when several thousand students who are still on year-round schedules in Los Angeles Unified School District showed up for class last week. The majority lacked the vaccinations, and the school district didn't have nearly enough of the booster shots to inoculate all of them. Parents ignore the memos and phone calls, figure they'll get to it ... sometime. Or they work two jobs and don't have time for this. Or they've moved. At this point, 600 students are staying home, learning nothing. But that's nothing compared with the more than 34,000 students on school schedules that start in mid-August. Close to 12,000 of them haven't been vaccinated yet. Then there are the 250,000 students in those grades who will show up in the fall...
Superintendent John Deasy is hoping the Legislature passes -- and Gov. Jerry Brown signs -- urgency legislation that would give schools 30 days from the first day a student shows up for school to make sure they get vaccinated. It makes sense, more sense than the original law. How can schools make sure students are being vaccinated on time if they don't need the proof until the day they show up for school? It may sound like good old tough, no-excuses legislation, but it doesn't mesh with the way life really works.
Meanwhile, kids aren't in class and schools stand to lose funding based on average daily attendance.
We've waited months for the law to take effect. Would a 30-day grace period make that huge a difference in whooping-cough rates? I doubt it.
-- Karin Klein
Photo: LAUSD nurses Jocelyn Lotho, left, and Mija Goldsmith give whooping cough shots to students at Huntington Park High School. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times