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CMS suspends students with no vaccines

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 were out of compliance as of this morning with an N.C. law requiring a booster shot called Tdap, said spokesperson Cynthia Robbins. The booster is required for all students who are in the sixth grade and have not had a booster containing tetanus in the past five years. The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diptheria and pertussis.

The new rules also require kindergarten students to have a second mumps vaccine. Robbins said about 1,350 elementary school students were out of compliance.

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.

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

Schools across the state have suspended hundreds of sixth graders with outdated vaccination shots in compliance with a new state law, while many other students face suspension, school officials said today.

Principals and other school staff are calling parents directly who have not updated immunization records for their child. A law passed by the General Assembly in January requires children to have one booster dose of tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis, or Tdap, if five years have passed since their last one. The information warns parents that their child can be suspended if immunizations aren't up to date within 30 days of starting school. The rules apply to about 210,000 students.

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

The 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.

Landes 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.

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