PARKERSBURG - All seventh- and 12th-grade students in Wood County Schools have the vaccinations required to attend school in West Virginia, but officials say only a fraction of next year's students have updated shot records, something which could hamper their ability to participate in summer sports.
Teresa Morehead, coordinator of health services for Wood County Schools, spoke Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education, updating the board on efforts to enforce new state vaccination requirements for some students.
Beginning this school year, proof of Tdap and meningitis shots are required for grades seven and 12. A second meningitis shot is required for 12th graders if the first dose was before age 16. Nearly 1,000 middle school students and 900 high school students in Wood County Schools were required to get the immunizations for this fall.
Photo by Michael Erb
Teresa Morehead, coordinator of health services for Wood County Schools, reported Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education that all students are up to date with vaccinations.
Morehead said at the start of the school year about 900 students did not have updated school records showing they'd had the vaccinations. On Sept. 10, about 70 students were informed they could not attend school until they had received the vaccinations, and by Sept. 18 all of the students met the state requirements.
"Our doctors throughout the community throughout the year tried to get the word out," Morehead said. "The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department was wonderful, holding several clinics in the weeks leading up to school and on the day we had to enforce" students being sent home from school.
However, Morehead said among next year's seventh- and 12th-graders, now in sixth- and 11th-grades, only 16 percent or about 290 students have proof they have received the required vaccinations.
Morehead said according to state guidelines, those students must have all of their required shots by June or they would not be eligible to play in summer sports. Morehead said the same requirement likely was in place this past summer, but officials were so focused on the start of the school year they accidentally missed the rule and it was not enforced.
Morehead said the issue is further compounded by nurse scheduling. Most of the school system's nurses do not work during the summer months, so it potentially could fall to coaches to enforce the state vaccination requirement.
Board members suggested the vaccines be made part of the annual physical requirements already in place for students wishing to participate in sports.
"We will look for opportunities to inform the public about the requirements," said Superintendent Pat Law. This year "notification from the state came late in the summer, and we were a little crunched for time."
"I am hoping by August (2013) when school is starting we will have a better representation," Morehead said.
This fall the state allowed a two-week grace period from the start of school for students to prove they had received the vaccinations, but Morehead said state officials have not indicated such a grace period will be in place next fall.
Morehead also briefly spoke about the county's policy concerning dispensing medication to students. Wood County Schools requires parent and doctor permission forms for both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Those medications also must be given by either a school nurse or a designated individual, such as a secretary or teacher's aide, who has received training from the school nurse.
Morehead said the policy is slightly more strict than the state policy which only requires parental permission for over-the-counter medications, but said with an increase in youths abusing prescription and over-the-counter medications, she favored the extra precaution.
"I feel this is the safest use of over-the-counter medication," she said.