Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Vaccine, No School for Berkeley and Oakland Students

By Rachel Swan
Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Doubts about the efficacy of the whooping cough vaccine haven't hindered Berkeley Unified School District from instituting a ban against students who haven't received their Tdap booster shots. The 30-day grace period ends September 29, after which point any seventh through twelfth grade student who hasn't gotten vaccinated will be prohibited from attending school, The Daily Cal reports.

Berkeley didn't make that rule, however; the school district is merely following a new state law, passed last September, that was meant to stem a sudden upsurge in documented cases of whooping cough (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 9,000 cases in California last year, out of 27,550 in the US at large). Unfortunately, though, roughly 25 percent of Berkeley students still haven't been vaccinated, superintendent Bill Huyett said. District officials aren't sure if that's a matter of procrastination, lack of health care, or personal beliefs. The latter could actually be a big factor, given the growing popularity of the anti-vaccination movement. In that case, students' parents are allowed to sign a release form exempting them from the law.

City officials tried to address the health care accessibility problem by offering the vaccine for free at a number of clinics — including Berkeley High's campus health center — but many students still haven't complied. The situation is similar in Oakland, where 1,900 students still need to get shots, according to the Daily Cal. With the deadline looming, a lot of kids could be out of school next week.

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