SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – The World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, know what it takes to defeat a formidable opponent – now the team has geared up to do battle against whooping cough.

California just went through its worst epidemic of whooping cough or pertussis in five decades – Thousands were infected, hundreds hospitalized and ten infants, all under 6 months of age, died.

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Now the Giants have a message for this disease: “Fear the Beard.” An event Tuesday took place at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. For an hour, the room belonged to the Giants, and relief pitcher Sergio Romo.

“I get the opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans and what not, but never have I been as nervous as I am now,” said Romo, as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Romo was on hand to remind parents and students from 7th to 12th grade that they need a Tdap vaccine before attending school.

A new California law requires the vaccination for school children. On July 25th, a second law allows for 30 days conditional school enrollment for 7th to 12th graders without proof of the Tdap immunization. But parents and students should not wait long.

“Get it!” said Romo. “It’s required to go to school now. My son is about to start school in a couple of weeks from now.”

The Tdap vaccine protects against pertussis, or whooping cough. Pertussis is caused by the bacteria bordetella pertussis, and it’s very contagious. Those are highest risk are young infants

“There was no medicine to treat it, and there was nothing that they could do to stop it,” said Mariah Bianchi.

In 2005, Bianchi was infected with pertussis, and ended up giving it to her 3-year-old son Cole and her newborn baby Dylan. Within days, Dylan died.

“As a mother I didn’t know I needed it, so really (I’m) reinforcing, especially for new moms, to protect your babies by protecting yourself, and get vaccinated,” said Bianchi.

As for Romo, he and his family have a new baby on the way.

“As a parent, I’m not going to put my kids through that. I don’t want to, so I’m not going to take that chance.”

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So the right handed pitcher got a shot in his left arm. Dr. Susan Fernyak is Director of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention in San Francisco. She did the honors and gave Romo an injection.

Lucis Selig, 17, came to see the ballplayer and left with a souvenir. Romo signed his baseball. The student got a Tdap vaccination as well.

“It’s really easy and quick,” said Selig.

Teens need to know that pertussis can keep them out of school for at least a week, and that even after they are no longer contagious, they can cough for months.

For seven years, the San Francisco Giants has partnered with the San Francisco Immunization Coalition and the San Francisco Department of Public Health to get local communities vaccinated against serious disease.

The City and County of San Francisco will host a free clinic this Saturday at the French American International School, from 1 – 4 PM.

All students must come with a parent/guardian or have a signed parental consent form.

For more information and information on free clinics near you, visit:

San Francisco Immunization Coalition

San Francisco Giants

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