Originally published August 19, 2011 at 11:44 a.m., updated August 19, 2011 at 3:34 p.m.
Forty-thousand San Diego County middle and high schoolers still have to show they've been vaccinated for whooping cough.
SAN DIEGO About 40,000 San Diego County 7th through 12th graders have to submit proof they've had a whooping cough booster shot to attend school this fall. Roughly 21,000 of those students are in San Diego Unified.
This is the first year middle and high school students have to get the vaccine. Students have a 30-day grace period from the first day of school to submit the paperwork showing they've had the shot. But parents shouldn't wait, said County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward.
“It would be a mistake for families to delay this vaccination for even three days, let alone 30," he said. "The longer families wait, the more likely it will be that clinics are crowded and a child will not receive the vaccination they need to be safe and to keep others safe.”
With more than half the county's unvaccinated students attending San Diego Unified schools, city schools Superintendent Bill Kowba said students' health is on the line - but missing school days would also hurt students academic performance and the district's bottom line.
“The absence of 21,000 unvaccinated children could result in the loss of millions of dollars on a day-to-day basis," he said, because school districts receive state funding based on daily attendance. "At this time of unprecedented budget cuts, districts across the county and the state cannot afford any loss of revenue.”
Last year San Diego County had 1,144 reported cases of whooping cough, including two fatal infections in infants. So far this year, 335 cases have been reported in the county. One recent infection was confirmed in a boy whose whooping cough immunizations were up to date.
The pertussis -- whooping cough's formal name -- vaccine is 80 to 85 percent effective, according to County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten. She said getting the vaccine may not prevent infections in every case, but can reduce symptoms when a vaccinated person does get the illness.
Students can get the booster shot at their doctor's office. For kids without primary care physicians the county is holding vaccination clinics, where the shot costs $10. The fee is waived for those who cannot afford it.