The recent whooping cough epidemic has not only spurred a new shot requirement for children, but has also reignited the immunization debate in parenting circles.
Last year, more than 7,800 whooping cough cases statewide were reported, including 10 infant deaths—three from Los Angeles County. This is the worst outbreak the state has seen in 50 years, according to the California Department of Health.
In response to the epidemic, a new California law, effective July 2011, will require every middle and high school student in California to be vaccinated against pertussis. All students entering seventh through eighth grades in public and private schools must show proof of their immunization, or "Tdap" booster shots, before enrolling in the new academic year.
Previously, the booster shot was only a recommendation. It protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Although whooping cough is not considered fatal in school-age children, it can be fatal for infants, according to the Department of Health.
Most parents in the U.S. immunize their children, but there are many who choose not to vaccinate—often because of fear that autism could be caused by vaccines (though there's no scientific evidence of a connection), or they have other philosophical or religious objections.
That's why the number of young children who are not fully vaccinated for preventable diseases, such as mumps, chicken pox and Hepatitis B, has been steadily increasing over the last decade.
Where do you stand on the vaccination debate? Do you question the safety of the vaccines? Should an unvaccinated child be kicked out of a play group or public playground, or denied an education?
Share your thoughts, ask questions and weigh in on the conversation in the comment section below.