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Lack of shots gets students suspended

An estimated 1,200 CMS middle schoolers need to give proof of immunization to stay in their classes.

By Eric Frazier
efrazier@charlotteobserver.com

An undisclosed number of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students have been suspended this week for failing to provide proof of vaccinations required by a new state law.

About 1,200 CMS middle school students remained out of compliance as of Friday morning with an N.C. law requiring a booster shot called Tdap, said spokesperson Cynthia Robbins. The tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster is required for all sixth-graders who have not had a booster containing tetanus in the past five years.

Robbins said CMS officials have been notifying families to let them know their children will be suspended unless they comply.

She said principals will let children attend school if a parent presents an appointment card confirming a doctor's appointment scheduled prior to Oct. 24. But if the appointment is missed, the child will be suspended until the required proof of immunization is provided, Robbins said.

The new rules also require kindergarten students to have a second mumps vaccine. Robbins said the families of about 1,350 elementary school students have been warned that they must get in compliance or face suspension.

She declined to say how many students have been suspended, saying the numbers are fluctuating rapidly and an accurate total is too hard to pinpoint.

Schools across the state have suspended hundreds of sixth-graders, while many other students face suspension, school officials said Friday. The new rules apply to about 210,000 students.

Most districts had deadlines throughout this week and began suspending students Wednesday.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the booster after North Carolina saw an increase in pertussis, or whooping cough, said state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Amy Caruso. The requirement took effect for the 2008-09 school year.

On Thursday afternoon, 1,150 sixth-graders in Guilford County Schools still needed to submit proof of their vaccination.

“There was a free clinic last night so I'm sure that number has probably gone down a lot,” said Guilford County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Landes.

She said about 5,400 sixth-graders are in the county's public schools system.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools had to suspend over 100 of their 3,800 sixth graders despite informing parents of county clinics. Social workers and school nurses are working with individuals now, said school spokesman Theo Helm.

The Associated Press contributed.

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