To combat the spread of whooping cough, a new state law will take effect in about two months that will require teens to be vaccinated against the disease by the time the 2011-12 school year starts.

But according to officials with Barstow Unified School District, which is working with Silver Valley Unified School District and the local hospital to organize an immunization clinic, obtaining the vaccine may be a problem.

Students entering seventh-grade through 12th-grade next year must receive a booster against whooping cough, according to a new state law that was enacted September 2010.

Parents will need to provide proof their student was vaccinated before beginning school. This booster is in addition to the whooping cough vaccine most children receive when they are 6 months old.

The state legislature passed the law after nine babies died from whooping cough in California in 2010.

About 2,000 students attending Barstow public schools will need to be vaccinated against whooping cough, said Joni James, BUSD's director of pupil services. The local pharmacies to offer the vaccine are Vons at a cost of almost $60 and Rite Aid for $57.99.

Children without health insurance can be vaccinated for free through the Department of Public Health.

Because of the high cost for the vaccine through local pharmacies, BUSD officials are hoping organize an immunization clinic through Barstow Community Hospital by applying for a grant that would provide the vaccine for free. The school district is currently on a waiting list to receive the serum, according to James.

"We have had several parents calling us upset about having to get the booster," James said. "We're just trying to figure out how to make it as easy for our parents and our kids as we can."

According to Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, the county's public health official, the county may offering the vaccine to area school districts so they can set up immunization clinics. But the vaccines can only be given to those who are uninsured, he said. Those who are covered through MediCare or private insurance would be referred to their doctors.

Even though a specific date hasn't been set for an immunization clinic in the Barstow area, the whooping cough booster shot will be offered at Barstow Community Hospital's Kids Care Fair in August, said spokesman John Rader. The hospital receives the vaccine through the county Department of Public Health.

The Department of Public Health's Barstow clinic is at 303 East Mountain View Street. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and the first and fourth Tuesdays of the month. To make an appointment, call 1-800-722-4777.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com