Officials: 190 students have not had mandatory meningitis shot

Melonie McLaurin | Daily Journal Slightly more than one-third of the 565 Richmond County school students required by the state to be vaccinated against meningitis remain out of compliance.

ROCKINGHAM — There will be a lot more room on school buses when the 2015-16 school year begins in August unless the slightly more than one-third of rising seventh-graders required by a new state law to receive meningitis vaccine comply.

Richmond County health educator Nancy Porter said Wednesday that a significant number of students had yet to receive the vaccination.

“Of the 565 students who are required to have it, 190 have not done it,” Porter said. “That’s about a third, a little more than a third.”

Porter said the Richmond County Health Department held two walk-in immunization clinics prior to the close of school. Clinics were held on May 12, with six students immunized, and on June 2 with nine students were immunized.

“If these students have not complied with the North Carolina state law by Aug. 24 — the first day of school — they will have 30 days to comply with the state law or they will be suspended from school until they receive the vaccine,” Porter said.

All North Carolina seventh-graders are now required to receive meningococcal conjugate immunization to attend classes.

Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman is big on attendance.

“Student attendance is so important,” Goodman said. “We can’t afford for any of our students to miss school.”

School nurses and the Richmond County Health Department began working together during the last school year to inform students and parents of the vaccination law update.

Throughout the 2014-15 school year, school nurses ran a list of students who had not yet been immunized. The list was used to contact the students’ parents via letters and phone calls.

School Connects messages started going out to parents as early as March urging them to schedule an appointment at the health department or with their primary care physicians to make sure students received the meningitis immunization.

Information concerning the new law was provided during parent-teacher conferences, letters sent home from schools and even messages added to report cards.

The health department will host its final walk-in immunization clinic for the meningitis vaccine from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug 18. Parents should bring a photo ID and their child’s insurance card or Medicaid card or Health Choice card.

“No appointment is necessary on the walk-in day,” Porter said. “However, parents can make an appointment by calling 901-997-8300.”

“I certainly hope our students will take advantage of the health department’s vaccination opportunities so we can all start the school year on a positive note,” Goodman said.

Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.