Deadline looming for meningitis vaccinations

One-third of rising 7th graders don’t have shot

By Kevin Spradlin

The countdown is on.

The first day for Richmond County Schools students is only 67 days away. The start date to the 2015-16 school year marks the beginning of another important running clock: the deadline by which this fall’s seventh-graders need their meningococcal vaccine.

North Carolina averages about 16 cases of meningitis a year, according to state health officials. The requirement to have rising seventh-graders vaccinated was signed into law in July 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.19.29 PMNancy Porter, health educator with the Richmond County Health Department, told The Pee Dee Post on Wednesday that slightly more than one-third — 190 of 565, or 33.628 percent — of incoming seventh-graders don’t yet have the vaccine.

“It’s compulsory,” Porter said. “It’s mandatory. It’s not an option.”

There are certain exemptions, Porter acknowledged.

Rockingham Middle School has 86 incoming seventh-graders that have not yet received the vaccine; 54 at Hamlet Middle, 30 at Rohanen Middle at 20 at Ellerbe Middle.

Porter said Richmond County Schools will have no choice but to suspend students 30 days after the start of the new school year if they still don’t have the shot.

The Richmond County Health Department has staged two clinics for the shot. Six students showed up at the first one and nine the second, Porter said. A third clinic is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Parents need to bring their family’s insurance or Medicard card and a photo ID to 127 Caroline Street in Rockingham. No appointment is necessary.

School district officials have been working for nearly a year to help ensure parents know about the new requirement — and meet it in time.

Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, nurses monitored their list of rising seventh-graders, coding each student as immunized once they received the vaccine. Additionally, they ran a separate list of students that had not yet been immunized to insure their parents were individually contacted by letters and phone calls.

Beginning in March, weekly School Connects messages were sent to parents, encouraging them to schedule an appointment at the health department or their primary care physician to have their child receive the meningitis immunization.

Both the health department and school nurses also set up meningitis immunization information tables for those attending parent-teacher conferences in April.

Middle School Data Managers also sent home letters or added a message to both the 3rd Nine Weeks and final June 10th report card reminding rising seventh-grade parents to schedule an appointment for their child.

This marks the start of a two-year change, Porter said. This year’s incoming sixth-grade class is the first that is not required to have the Tdap shot. Those students will get that in a joint inoculation with the meningococcal vaccine.when they enter seventh grade in the Fall of 2016.

In addition, a meningococcal vaccine will be required for all high school students beginning Aug. 1, 2020.

There are opportunities for exemptions, either medical or religious. A primary care physical must apply to the state medical director for a medical exemption on a student’s behalf. Parent reporting is not a valid source.

A request for religious exemption should include the student’s name, date of birth and statement of objection, along with parent signature and state. The request should also be on file with the student’s primary care physician.


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