On your back-to-school checklist: The Tdap booster shot

It’s almost August – which means it’s almost time to return to school. And this year, students entering grades 7 through 12 must add Tdap booster shot to their back-to-school checklists.

Under a new state law, all California students entering 7th through 12th grades for this school year must be immunized with the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine booster, called Tdap. Students will need proof they have received a booster shot on or after their 7th birthday.

The new law is striving to prevent the whooping cough epidemic that hit California – and especially the Latino community – particularly hard last year.

The disease activity is still high this year, but has not reached the heights of 2010 – which saw the most cases reported in the state in 63 years, according to the California Department of Public Health. Last year, 10 people died of whooping cough, nine of which were Latino infants; this year, no deaths have been reported.

Need more reasons to get your child vaccinated soon? Check out this video, via shotsforschool.org:

If your child still needs a booster shot, call your doctor’s office, community clinic or school clinic to secure a vaccination. For those families who are unable to get the vaccination from a doctor or clinic, some county health departments are offering vaccinations.


  • FRESNO COUNTY: The department of public health is offering vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, from Aug. 1 – Aug. 26, at the department, 1221 Fulton Mall.
  • MERCED COUNTY: The health department will offer the Tdap booster shots in county clinics in Merced and Los Baños. Call (209)381-1180 for more information.
  • STANISLAUS COUNTY: The vaccine is available at the health department, located at 820 Scenic Dr. in Modesto, from Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Whooping cough, previously on Harvesting Health:

Vaccinate your Teen!

UPDATE: Read the Vida en el Valle story, ‘Pertussis vaccine required at school,’ here.

Hey, California parents! Did you know the state’s vaccination laws have changed?

Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, all students entering 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades will need proof of a whooping cough vaccination (known as Tdap) before starting school. (If children received the Tdap shot on or after their 7th birthdays, they do not need another.)

The law applies to students enrolled in public and private schools.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health is encouraging all parents to schedule an appointment with their teens’ health care providers for a Tdap vaccination, other vaccinations, and a complete health check-up.(Click here to hear some of the county health department’s “Vaccinate Your Teen” PSAs.)

Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 3

Why is this important?

Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010, California experienced the most severe whooping cough epidemic in 63 years, according to the California Department of Public.

The epidemic hit the state’s Latino community especially hard. Nine of the ten infants who died of whooping cough last year were Latino.

Read more from Harvesting Health about whooping cough:

Photo above by Daniel Cásarez.

The top community health stories of 2010

In a previous post, I declared December the time for making resolutions for the New Year.

December is also the time for making lists: gift lists, In/Out lists, and, in this case, lists of the top news of the year.

Below is my list of the top community health stories of the year. (Click here to read the version that ran in the Dec. 29 edition of Vida.)

I’m sure there are more local health issues that should be recognized in this list – so feel free to add your voice in the comments section below!

1. Kettleman City gets attention
Last year, Kettleman City residents were begging for state officials to investigate the rash of birth defects in their majority Latino community of about 1,500 people.

In January, the community’s concerns finally got the attention of state officials, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger ordered the state Department of Public Health and state Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the birth defects in the tiny Kings County community.

In November, the state agencies released the results of their investigation, and said there was no common cause for the at least 11 babies born with birth defects between 2007 and March of this year.

Kettleman City residents and activists hope that is not the end of the state’s investigation into the community’s health crisis.

“I feel that they need to continue the investigation, and it needs to be more thorough,” community member Maricela Mares-Alatorre said. “They need to find out actually why the birth defects happen, so people can continue to have babies without fear.”

2. Whooping cough hits state’s Latino community hard
This year, there were 7,824 cases of pertussis — or whooping cough — reported between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15. That was the most cases reported in 63 years, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Latinos were hit hardest by the whooping cough epidemic this year. Nine of the 10 infants who died from pertussis were Latino.

There is no conclusive evidence explaining why Latino infants have been particularly hard hit by the pertussis epidemic. But pediatric disease experts suggest that since Latino infants tend to live with large, multi-generational families, they might have more chances to catch the disease from relatives or caretakers.

3. State’s epic budget impasse causes community clinics to struggle
Community health clinics across the San Joaquín Valley struggled to keep their doors open this fall as the governor and state legislature sat at an impasse over the state budget for a record 100 days.

The state government did not reimburse clinics for Medi-Cal payments during that gridlock, denying clinics 50 to 80 percent of their revenues. During that time, some clinics were forced to chop their operating hours or lay off staff.

“We are the safety net for health,” Harry Foster, president and CEO of Family HealthCare Network, said at that time. “We’re drowning, and no one pays attention to us.”

4. A new face of hunger in the Valley
As the San Joaquin Valley economy withered and unemployment rates remained stagnant, food banks across the region reported providing food to people that never before had needed it.

“The face of hunger has changed,” said Mike Mallory, CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank, which serves Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. “It could be a relative, a friend, a co-worker, a next door neighbor – they people that you least expect.”

In response, the Community Food Bank in Fresno held its largest food distribution ever in September.

During the event, about 650 volunteers distributed about 1.275 million pounds of food to residents of Fresno, Kings, and Madera counties.

“This is one day when nobody in the Central Valley should say they’re going without food,” said Dayatra Latin, director of programs and development for the Community Food Bank.

5. White House focuses on childhood obesity
First Lady Michelle Obama cast a national spotlight on the country’s childhood obesity epidemic when she kicked off the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign in February.

But a movement to end childhood obesity began in the San Joaquin Valley long ago.

This year, the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program and other community groups did some awesome work this year to improve access to healthy foods, and create safe places to play, in Valley communities.

For example, parents from John Burroughs Elementary School established a joint-use agreement with the Fresno Unified School District, ensuring the community’s children had a safe place to play after school hours and on the weekends.

What are the emerging health issues for 2011?
I think unincorporated communities – like the Stanislaus County community of Parklawn – are going to be a major news story in 2011.

Organizations like California Rural Legal Assistance and PolicyLink are already doing great work to bring health, infrastructure, and environmental justice to see these small, voiceless communities, and there is definitely more to come.