California parents will have to add the Tdap booster shot to their seventh-through-12th-grader’s back-to-school lists next fall after state health officials announced that the pertussis, or whooping cough, booster shot will be required for students by law before starting school. After experiencing the worst pertussis epidemic this year since 1950 — which sickened at least 5,200 people and killed nine infants — California will no longer be one of the 11 states that has no current legislation mandating middle school students to get a booster shot.
Since babies are the most susceptible to the pertussis bacterium, it is extremely important that adults and adolescents get vaccinated in order to prevent the transmission of infection to vulnerable infants. “The pertussis bacterium can linger in people even after they are symptom-free; therefore, poorly immunized people in the vicinity are susceptible to getting infected, and infants are generally affected worse than adults,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “By increasing vaccinations among middle-schoolers, we can reduce overall transmission by the concept of herd immunity.”