Next school year, all students in junior high and high school will be required to get a whooping cough booster, a measure motivated by an ongoing epidemic of the illness like none seen since 1955.
And in the 2012 school year and thereafter, students entering seventh grade will be required to get a whooping cough booster before going to school.
The measure – written by Assemblyman Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, and approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week – comes after the ninth California infant died from the illness in mid-September.
All of the babies who died were younger than 3 months old, and infants are seeing the highest rates of the illness, with 205 cases per 100,000 babies, according to the Department of Public Health [PDF].
Before Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the law, California was one of only 11 states that did not require seventh-graders to get the pertussis booster. It would bring California closer to a state of 'herd immunity,' a term that refers to protecting such a large swath of the population from disease that the most vulnerable, such as infants, enjoy heightened protection.
Whooping cough is characterized by a wheezing and lingering cough that has stricken more than 4,400 Californians this year, according to the Department of Public Health. More Californians were sickened with the cough only in 1955, when about 4,900 fell ill.
About 11 percent of those who came down with whooping cough this year were hospitalized, state data shows.
The current spread of the illness has spurred public health officials to recommend that anyone 7 years or older who hasn’t had their full series of vaccines to get it. Additionally, women of childbearing age and those who are around infants are asked to complete their vaccination series as well.
Public health officials compiled a list of places [PDF] where people seeking shots can get them.