Sacramento, California - With the new school year about to begin, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, is encouraging parents to make sure their kids’ vaccinations are up-to-date before classes start.

“Currently, California’s whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic continues to be a threat," said Dr. Chapman. "As families make plans for heading back to school, they should also make sure their children all have their immunizations required for child care or school. That includes an adolescent whooping cough booster (Tdap) for students entering 7th grade."

Schools are required to verify each child's immunization record to ensure all required vaccinations are current before entry to kindergarten and 7th grade. Since 1962, California has required certain vaccinations for children starting kindergartens. In 2013-2014, nearly 550,000 (90 percent) of California kindergarteners were fully immunized, with the remainder typically lacking just one or a few required vaccines.

Dr. Chapman urges parents to make an appointment with their health care provider now so they can protect themselves and their families from infectious diseases.

If a child does not have health insurance, or is only partially insured, a doctor or local health department can provide information about the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free or low-cost immunizations. Some local health departments are offering expanded immunization clinics during August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month.

To learn more about immunizations required for child care or school and to find out how many of your child’s schoolmates have been vaccinated, visit shotsforschool.org.