UPDATE 9/13/12 @ 7 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After nearly a year of campaigns, awareness and even warnings, it was time to face the issue head-on Monday in Cabell County Schools -- at least for the older students.
We're talking about the new shots required for 7th and 12th-graders in West Virginia.
The completion rate was far from perfect, but the punishment was a lot less harsh than originally specified.
The halls were alive with the sounds of students at Huntington High School on Monday. But, on the first day of school, only a little more than 70 percent of the seniors had their newly required immunizations. That means three out of every ten seniors failed to get the two new shots.
“I'm certainly discouraged by those numbers," Huntington High nurse Heather Wood said. "I would have liked it to be 90 percent, but we'll take what we've got and encourage the students to do better."
While Cabell County Schools initially threatened to turn students away Monday if they didn't have the required vaccines, the reality resulted in leniency.
“They've got a little leeway, but it needs to be done, Wood said.
Starting with this school year, every 7th and 12th-grader is required to have a new DTap vaccine that guards against pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus. In addition, 7th graders need a meningitis vaccine, and the high school seniors need a meningitis booster.
They're shots 7th-grader Cody Ney didn't get and he was actually turned away from Buffalo Middle School in Wayne County. His mom, Tracy, admits she got the reminders, but didn't pay close attention to them since her son was transferring from Cabell to Wayne County Schools.
“Plenty of phone calls, but just kind of ignored them," said Tracy Ney, the parent of a 7th-grader. "I thought he's going to Wayne, didn't realize it was a statewide affair. I just thought it was Cabell County. Now, I'm rushing around trying to get the shots so he can go to school."
Procrastination and misunderstanding were big excuses for a lot of parents in Cabell County, and it shows in the numbers. Both high schools -- Huntington High and Cabell Midland -- had less than 75 percent completion.
The middle schools were better and worse with Barboursville Middle hitting almost 90 percent (at 86 percent) and Huntington Middle reaching just a little over half -- with just 54 percent.
The state is requiring schools to give a two-week grace period.
But, last week Cabell County Schools were adamant they'd turn students away the first day of school to go get their shots.
In the end, most schools are working with parents to make plans to get their children immunized immediately.
At Huntington High School, the school nurse reported a compliance rate of nearly 70 percent. Nearly 100 high school seniors started school today without the necessary immunizations.
While the state imposed a mandatory two-week grace period for all schools, Cabell County Schools said they'd only allow leniency in extreme cases promising to turn students away and send to get the shot before they could attend classes. In the end, school nurses decided to work closely with students and their parents to make sure those immunizations are arranged in the next few days.
It's a simple stick that only takes a few seconds to get.
But, that's not stopping plenty of parents and students from putting off needed vaccines until the very last minute.
“I think it's just cause their busy and a lot of parents take the last few days and get the last-minute things done,” Kathleen Napier, Cabell Huntington Health Department Director of Nursing said.
But, Tonya Hammond isn't claiming last minute rush. She says she didn't know about the new shots required for her seventh grader until three days ago.
“They may have sent something home and I just didn't pay attention, but I'm not really sure," Hammond said. "I just remember I called the day before. I didn't even know they started school on Wednesday until the day before. I didn't understand what the immunizations were for."
West Virginia launched a major awareness campaign more than six months ago informing of new state requirements for every incoming seventh and twelfth grader.
Both must have a DTap vaccine, which guards against diptheria, pertussis and tetanus. In addition to that, seventh graders need the meningitis vaccine. Twelfth graders must also have a meningitis booster.
“It’s a very serious diseases and often with a lot of side effects,” Naiper said.
“No shot no school,” Bill Smith, Cabell County Schools Superintendent said.
Cabell County Schools Superintendent Bill Smith said the district has done everything possible to prepare students from send home multiple letters and even make phone calls. Come Monday morning, they won't accept any excuses.
“If they don't, the health department is providing clinics that day and they can get them immediately and come right back to school,” Smith said.
The state education department has implemented a required two-week grace period for all school districts.
But, check with your local school district because not every district is so lenient.
For example, Cabell County is only allowing a grace period for extreme circumstances.
Beginning in the fall, seventh-graders and 12th graders must be vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and meningitis. Those who aren't vaccinated cannot attend public schools.
The lawsuit recently filed with the state Supreme Court claims the DHHR overstepped its authority.
Delegate Patrick Lane represents the plaintiffs. The Kanawha County Republican say the DHHR can't require vaccines without the Legislature's approval.
The two immunizations are the TDAP which is tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough; the other immunization is for meningitis according to the Kanawha County Health Department.
Susan Jordan with the Kanawha County Heath Department say these are new requirements designed to keep children's healthy and safe.
"We're seeing an increase in pertussis popping up across the nation and to protect them from transmitting and spreading pertussis not only amount their population, but the population of infants and the elderly which may be more susceptible to those diseases," Jordan said.
The immunizations are available at your family doctor and the Health Department.
The health department will continue the walk in vaccination clinics throughout the month. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, August 8.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is holding walk-in vaccination clinics.
They are set for Aug. 6, 8,10, 14 and 20 from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m.
On Aug. 13, the department will hold a clinic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All of the clinics are being held at the health department office along Lee Street in Charleston.
All students entering 7th and 12th grades must have tenanus, diphtheria, accellular pertussis and meningococcal immunizations before being allowed in school.
Additional clinics have been scheduled from Aug. 6 to 17 at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. Hours during that time are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 8 to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Also, a Get Well Wednesday clinic -- in partnership with Cabell Huntington Hospital -- will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 8 and 15 at the Huntington Mall.
These clinics are being offered by Valley Health Systems and will include Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis and Meningococcal immunizations. Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, 7th and 12th grade students must have these immunizations before they start school. Students who do not get immunized will not be allowed to attend classes.
Students under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent. Health insurance information must be provided prior to receiving the immunizations. Registration and consent forms will be available at the clinics or at the Cabell County School's website.
For more information, please contact the Cabell Huntington Health Department by calling 304-523-6483, the Cabell Midland High School Health Center by calling 304-743-7495, or the Huntington High School Health Center by calling 304-528-6445.
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