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As schools get set to open, thousands of students have yet to get vaccinated

August 08, 2011|By Megan O'Neil; megan.oneil@latimes.com

Thousands of children still need to receive a state-required vaccination to be allowed into their classrooms on the first day of school, local education officials said this week.

Students in grades seven through 12 must be re-immunized against pertussis, or whooping cough, by the start of the academic year — Aug. 15 and Aug. 29 for Burbank and Glendale schools, respectively. The inoculation is being administered as part of a three-in-one shot, known as Tdap, that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Tdap was added to the list of required vaccines for public school children after an outbreak of whooping cough killed 10 infants in California last year. Health officials determined the victims contracted whooping cough from adults whose immunization had worn off.

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Roughly 60% of Glendale Unified students who are required to receive the vaccination have submitted verification that they have done so, said Assistant Supt. Katherine Fundukian Thorossian. In Burbank, the compliance rate has so far topped out at 80%, said Director of Student Services Tom Steele.

The districts launched public information campaigns in the spring aimed at bringing families up to speed, posting information on the district websites and sending home fliers in student folders.

Glendale Unified hosted two clinics during the summer break at which more than 500 students received the vaccine, Thorossian said.

“From what I understand, the coughing is the break-your-ribs kind of cough, and it is persistent, and it [lasts] for weeks,” Thorossian said. “It is debilitating. We want our kids to be healthy and start the school year off on target and on track, and the best way to address it is through prevention.”

The district will offer three additional on-the-spot vaccination opportunities: Aug. 18 at Crescenta Valley High School; Aug. 23 at Glendale High School; and Aug. 24 at Hoover High School. The events will run from 8 a.m. to noon, Thorossian said.

The Tdap shot will cost $40, and cash is required, she added.

Burbank families who had not submitted proof of vaccination by mid-June received an automated reminder call from the district, Steele said. Middle and high school students who showed up to register for classes this week without the shot were directed to get it and then come back to retrieve their start-of-the-year packets.

And those who still have not complied by next week will receive personal telephone calls, Steele said.

“We are pushing as hard as we can to have very few who do not have it when school starts,” he said.

Districts do have the option of activating a grace period, during which students will have 30 days from the first day of school to receive the Tdap vaccination, but officials said they prefer to have it taken care of earlier.

“At some point, whether there is a waiver or not, students will be excluded from school if they don’t show proof,” Thorossian said. “It is kind of like getting your homework done.”

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