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Whoop It Up - Shot Compliance Low
Numbers aren't good - nowhere near where they should be - and those students who haven't done so yet need to get their whooping cough shot as soon as possible.

Escalon Unified School District Nurse Cassie Micheletti said with the incidence of whooping cough on the rise last year, legislation was put in place for all seventh through 12th graders to be immunized by the start of this school year.

"The law was AB (Assembly Bill) 354," Micheletti said, noting that the focus was on whooping cough, also known as pertussis, because of its resurgence last year. Most students are getting the bundled Tdap, Tetanus, diptheria and pertussis, shot and have to bring proof of that immunization to school.

"If they already have it, they can bring a copy of their shot record to school," Micheletti said. "They could also bring a doctor's note or a doctor's printout to show proof they got the shot if they don't have their yellow immunization record."

The law was passed in October 2010 to take effect July 1, 2011.

"There are so many students that don't have it," Micheletti added. "This vaccine before was not mandated, although in seventh grade a tetanus booster was recommended."

As is stands now, the Tdap is required of all incoming students in seventh and eighth grades at El Portal Middle School and all nine through 12th graders at Escalon High School.

Exceptions are those seniors that are over the age of 18. Students that are in foster care and even those considered homeless are still required to have the vaccination if they are under 18, Micheletti said.

Escalon hosted a free Tdap clinic last school year that saw many people coming in, several from the school staff, as well as students and community members. But overall, the student number is well below what is needed and that could mean funding trouble soon if it's not addressed.

At El Portal Middle School, Micheletti said, records show that about 150 students still need the shot, or show proof that they have had it. El Portal had an opening day enrollment of just over 660, so over 500 have provided proof of the immunization. The news is not that good at Escalon High School, where an opening day enrollment of around 900 showed only about a 50 percent compliance rate with the law.

"At the high school, 400 to 500 still need it," Micheletti said of the immunization.

The low level of compliance isn't unique in this area, however.

"You are seeing it across the board," admitted Micheletti.

Part of the issue, she said, appears to be cost, with some families just not able to afford the vaccination. There are some low-cost clinics, with both the Stanislaus County Health Department ($10) and San Joaquin County Health Department ($15) offering the most affordable shots.

People can also go to their own doctor for the shot, but that sometimes has to go through insurance and often can end up costing more than anticipated. Many drug stores and pharmacies are also offering the shots, with costs varying.

Originally, the law was written so that any student that didn't have proof of the immunization by the start of the school year would not be allowed to attend. The state has since backed off that stance.

"Now there's a new law, allowing us a 30-day grace period to get these kids immunized," Micheletti explained. "People need to get this done."

Escalon opened for the new school year on Aug. 15 so students have until mid-September to get the shot and bring proof to the school. Otherwise, based on the state law, they will be banned from attending school. And that, in turn, will cost the district those ADA (Average Daily Attendance) dollars that they get per student. If students don't attend, the money doesn't come.

Micheletti urged parents to find a way to get their students vaccinated.

"We're just trying to take the utmost precautions, to protect the students, staff, everybody," she said.

The district is putting together a second letter - one already went home with students - outlining the new Tdap requirement and Micheletti said anyone with questions can contact her at 838-8910.

In San Joaquin County, the public health department offers the vaccination at a cost of $15 at clinics in Stockton, Manteca and Lodi; Stanislaus County has them for $10 at a clinic in Modesto.

Other locations include the Escalon Health Center on McHenry ($70 cost) in addition to Ron's Pharmacy in Riverbank ($18). Other locations with the immunization are CVS, Walgreens, Target and Safeway, all in Modesto.