Students need a booster shot to attend school

As students in Berkeley prepare to return to school by buying binder paper and pencils, they need something else on their back-to-school shopping list: a booster shot.

A new California law requires all students entering grades 7 through 12 to provide proof they have had a Tdap shot, which provides protection against whooping cough, a bacterial disease that can be deadly.

The Legislature originally passed a law requiring students to get the booster shot by the first day of school, but voted in July to extend the requirement by 30 days. That means Berkeley public school students will have until September 30 to get the booster shot. Private schools have different compliance dates.

To make this process easier, the Berkeley Unified School District and the city of Berkeley are holding a number of clinics to administer the Tdap shot, which also provides protection against tetanus and diphtheria.


The Health Center at Berkeley High will offer shots on Friday from 8:30 am to noon, and from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.

The Berkeley Health Clinic at 830 University Avenue is offering the shots on a drop-in basis from now until September 1 on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 am to 11 am and 1 pm to 4 pm. On Thursdays, the hours are 1 pm to 6:30 pm. On Saturday August 27, the clinic will be offering boosters from 8:30 am to 12:30 am. The shots cost $17, but no one will be turned away if they cannot afford that.

Whooping cough is a bacterial disease that usually peaks in late summer. It is extremely contagious and can last for months, with coughing that is severe enough to crack ribs, break blood vessels and require hospitalization

In 2010, California reported 9,477 cases of whooping cough, the highest number in more than 60 years. There were 10 deaths, all babies younger than two months who had not been vaccinated fully. Berkeley reported 18 cases of whooping cough last year, and Alameda County as a whole had 422 cases. Alarmed by this trend, the legislature adopted the law requiring the booster.

Parents who do not want to immunize their children can file a Personal Beliefs Exemption (PBE), a form that states that vaccinations conflict with their personal beliefs.