Three percent of Berkeley middle and high school students remain unvaccinated

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SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

One hundred and twenty-seven middle and high school students in the Berkeley Unified School District are still unvaccinated for whooping cough as of Thursday, the first day past deadline.

As required by a new state law passed last year, all seventh through 12th grade students must receive a Tdap vaccination by the start of the school year or within the 30-day grace period. State law requires unvaccinated students to stay home — the consequence facing 3 percent of Berkeley middle and high school students.

According to district nurse Rikki Moreno, the schools are up to 97 percent compliance as of Thursday, with the vaccinated percentage including students whose parents signed a personal belief exemption. This means that only 127 kids are left unvaccinated out of the district’s 4,722 target demographic, she said.

As of the Wednesday deadline, compliance rate was 92 percent, with 387 students unvaccinated. Of the 387 students, 280 of them came from Berkeley High School.

Superintendent Bill Huyett said that because Berkeley High’s student body encompasses a majority of the target demographic, the school made a push to vaccinate its students at its on-campus clinic, which was open Thursday. High schoolers were able to receive free vaccinations at the on-campus clinic if their parents signed a permission slip or if they were 18 years of age. Students without permission slips were sent home.

“In general parents know that they have to get this (done),” Huyett said. “Some folks maybe put it off. Maybe some people don’t have health care providers, and this is more difficult.”

Huyett said Wednesday that with around 90 percent of students vaccinated by the time of the deadline, the district is “probably better than average.”

The law for immunization against whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial disease, came in response to a high number of outbreaks both in California and nationwide in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions website, California had 9,143 documented cases of whooping cough in 2010 — the highest number reported in 63 years — out of a total 27,550 cases reported nationally.

Consequently, all seventh graders in California will need to get a Tdap vaccination prior to entering school in upcoming years.

Since the amount of state money allocated to a district is based on student attendance, the Berkeley Unified School District is unsure of how funding will be affected by student absences, since Thursday was the first day that students were not allowed in class, said Susan Craig, director of Student Services for the district.

“For every day of school that a student misses, it costs the district about $30,” Craig said. “The absences are considered unexcused.”

The affected schools will continue to contact the parents to urge students to get immunized, Craig said.


Contact Weiru Fang at 


SEPTEMBER 29, 2011