Schools: 20 still lacking vaccine
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 6, 2013 1:50 AM
Nearly two dozen students still have not gotten a vaccination required by law and will not be allowed back in the classroom until they do, officials said last week.
Tdap, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, is required for all students entering sixth grade or who are 12 years old on or before Aug. 1. State immunization rules, which went into effect in 2008, require the booster shot within the first 30 days of the start of school.
For Wayne County Public Schools, that fell on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
The following day, Sept. 25, the district documented 136 students out of compliance with the mandate, said Allison Pridgen, director of student support/hearing officer.
"These students were indeed excluded from school in accordance with the law pending receipt of the immunization," she said.
This week, only 20 still remain out of school because of non-compliance, but the absence presents a bigger problem than a few missed assignments -- it could also result in criminal charges against parents.
"We don't have a truancy court in Wayne County anymore. But it becomes an issue of neglect, so eventually for these 20, if they do not get immunizations for their child, we have no choice but to file neglect charges with the local authorities," Mrs. Pridgen said.
This is not a new situation, she said, but has not recurred due to lack of communication.
"Parents of rising sixth-graders are notified of the Tdap requirements in a number of ways," she said. "Notice is provided on the year-end report card for fifth-graders, reminders are posted or distributed during all middle school open houses and students/parents are reminded a third and sometimes a fourth time via a reminder memo or phone call from school personnel or the school nurse. With each reminder, the consequence of school exclusion is included for lack of compliance.
"From April or May, they start talking about this and begin advertising the law at the schools. The first official notification goes home in writing at the end of the year, so that's from June until September."
Officials take into account obstacles parents may face, which is why plenty of advance notice is given.
"Are there transportation issues? Yes. Is it possible there may be a shortage of the vaccine? Yes. We have had students go out of town for night clinics. We have a night clinic here that students can go to," she said, adding, "Within the law there are religious exemptions, but that's not the case with any of these 20.
"I think our staff does a tremendous job to have only 20 that are not immunized."