Hesperia Unified has successfully met a new state obligation requiring all secondary students to get whooping cough vaccinations.


A new law that went into effect July 1 required that all students entering the seventh through 12th grades get a Tdap booster shot, which targets three infectious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis better known as whooping cough.


Although whooping cough is mostly a nuisance to healthy secondary students and adults, it kills an estimated 1 in 100 newborns and 1 in 200 infants up to a year old.


As the largest school district in the Victor Valley, HUSD had to make sure that 10,328 secondary students had proof of the shot or an exemption waiver within 30 days of the start of the school year.


"Now it's just new enrollees that we're dealing with," Jovy Yankaskas, assistant superintendent of educational services, said.


Not all districts managed to get all of their secondary students vaccinated in a timely fashion.


As of Sept. 11, 11 percent of Apple Valley Unified students had not turned in proof of their vaccinations or waivers, meaning that up to 1,500 students were on the verge of having to stay home costing the cash-strapped school district money for each missing student. Nearly all of the students turned in the required forms by the following Tuesday, although Snowline Joint Unified School District officials were still looking for 2,787 forms on Sept. 14.


Yankaskas credits HUSD staff leaping into action early for the district's success.


"We got notice in October about the state and we immediately started getting information out to parents," she said. "I even brought county health up here to meet with our management team."


In January, the district's Connect-ED automated phone calls started going out to families that had not turned in the required forms.


"Lots of them," she said. "People got sick of them. But that's OK."


The automated calls went out weekly over the summer to families that hadn't turned in their forms, and staff got involved personally.


"Our health techs and nurses started making personal calls," said Yankaskas. "We even had administrators knock on doors. ... It got to that point."


The HUSD also provided shot clinics, advertised local opportunities to get the shots.


"It took a lot of teamwork and coordinating between the departments, but our health services department did an awesome job," Yankaskas said. "Once parents realized we were actually serious, then they (said), 'Oh, I guess we better do it.'"


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.