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Medical professionals debate over Tdap vaccine

Superintendent says district holding electronic schedules for compliance
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local medical professionals have varying opinions about a state-mandated vaccine, while a school official says an extension recently signed by the governor could help transition into the new school year. In 2009 the California Legislature mandated all students entering grades seven to 12 receive a Tdap booster shot before for the 2011-2012 school year begins. Last week Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 614, which extends the deadline for parents to submit documentation to schools showing their children received the booster. Parents now have up to 30 days after the school year starts to submit the information. Foresthill resident Kate Willis, a semi-retired nurse practitioner in Auburn, said she thinks there are two forms of medicine: the doctors who take care of patients, and the Department of Public Health, which is interested in providing herd immunity to diseases. Willis said she thinks parents should consider the risks and benefits of getting vaccines, and doesn’t believe the Tdap is necessary. “Childhood vaccines only should be necessary in situations … where you are around children a lot, because it’s not something that is in the general population,” she said. “The adult population usually, because they don’t have the disease, they don’t pass the disease on and the unvaccinated children, they are the ones in danger.” Willis said because pertussis is only deadly to infants, she doesn’t think most people need to have the booster shot. “I just think you should be careful,” she said. “Any kind of disease you can take medication with the disease and deal with a little discomfort – do that. I think the fewer vaccines the better.” Willis said parents should explore the option of their children getting personal belief exemptions from the vaccine if they don’t want their students getting the booster. Laura Van Auker, a nurse practitioner with the Placer Union High School District and Sutter, said she doesn’t feel Willis understands the severity of the situation. “She is not apparently aware that there is now a true epidemic which involves losing lives,” Van Auker said. “I wasn’t sure (Willis’) letter (to the editor, July 26) reflected the true urgency of the whooping cough epidemic, which is real, for which babies have died because of non-immunized children, teenagers and adults.” Van Auker said she thinks it’s wrong to recommend parents look into getting the exemption for their children if they don’t have true need of it. “We need to reserve that waiver for people who truly have medical or true religious personal beliefs and not just for convenience,” she said. Roseville resident Cindy Hyland, who brings her daughter, Kimberly, to Auburn for her medical care, said she thinks the shot helps protect not only the teens who get it, but those around them. “I think it’s a good thing to get because it keeps your kid from getting sick,” Hyland said. “Who doesn’t want to keep their kids from getting sick?” Dave Horsey, superintendent of Placer Union High School District, said the recently signed bill giving parents an additional 30 days to get Tdap documentation to schools is good, but the district is still trying to get compliance as soon as possible for health and safety reasons. “Typically the parents can go on Parent Portal and see the (student’s) schedule electronically,” Horsey said. “For all the students who are not immunized, we have blocked that portion of the Parent Portal with a notice that you need to get your Tdap in and then we will release those schedules.” Horsey said while the district’s schools will no longer have to send students home on the first day of the new year if they don’t have their updated vaccination information, that wouldn’t be the case 30 days later. “We would have to basically send them home,” he said. “We would notify the parents, of course, way ahead of time. We will be pretty aggressive about that and I hope we will minimize that. I’m glad we got the extension because there was a lot put on schools to basically implement this law with very little time to do it in.” Kelly Frechou, a licensed vocational nurse with Sutter Medical Foundation Pediatrics in Auburn, said she wouldn’t encourage parents to get exemptions for their children without getting information. “I recommend that people talk to their personal physician about those risks and benefits before they make a decision, because we want to make sure you are making a well-educated decision,” Frechou said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Upcoming Placer County Tdap clinics When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 6 Where: Placer County Library, 4890 Granite Drive, Rocklin When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 13 Where: C.D.R.C. Building, 3091 County Center Drive, Auburn (Corner of Richardson and Bell Road in the DeWitt Center) When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 20 Where: Sutter Roseville Medical Center, One Medical Plaza Drive Level 2, Conference Rooms A & B, Roseville Cost: $9 Vaccinating students will be the priority