Wake County suspends students without shots


The law gave students a 30-day grace period from the start of the school year, but that grace period ended Thursday for Wake County.

Officials from the school system told ABC11 they had to suspend 103 students Monday for not getting the whooping cough vaccine.

"I had 62 students who still needed their T-Dap shot...I was very nervous about that," said West Millbrook Middle School Principle Kelly Aman who personally called every family so no student missed a minute of school.

Aman called parents to remind the state law requires all sixth graders show proof of immunization within 30 days of school or they could not come to class.

"I need those kids in class, if they're not here, they're not learning" she said.

By the middle of last week, students still not in compliance were called to her office.

"I said something like, 'Josiah, this is really important.  Starting tomorrow I'm not going to be able to let you come to school and I need you here and I need you learning," she said.

"Some parents said they were unaware, which I find so hard to believe, we sent emailed, phone blasts, home flyers...many of them didn't understand the seriousness of it until the principal calls," added Aman.

A spokesperson said one middle school principal in Raleigh said last Friday that she had 60 students who didn't have proof of a Tdap shot. The principal called the parents of those 60 children, and on Friday that number was down to one.

The school system said the goal is to get all students vaccinated and back in class as soon as possible.

"Any student who shows up for class and is not current on their vaccinations will be held in the office, the parent will then be called, and asked to take the child home," spokesperson Renee McCoy said. "The hope is that the parent will take the child immediately to a local health department or a health clinic or even their pediatrician's office to get those necessary vaccinations."

The state made the Tdap shot mandatory in 2008 to protect students from tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis.

"The vaccinations are to help kids and the community from contracting one of these diseases which could impact their health pretty dramatically," said family physician Dr. Ryan Murry.

The greatest concern is pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough. The highly contagious bacterial disease causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, and can prove to be fatal to the very young, the elderly, and people with breathing problems or compromised immune systems.

"Even Middle School children can get whooping cough and you don't want something that contagious spreading thru this campus because then we could have hundreds of students very sick and out," said Aman.

As of Monday morning, Aman's last sixth grader showed his proof of a Tdap.

"He and I did the happy dance around my office.  He was so tickled to be back...most people probably think children want a day off from school or they want a vacation, not one of those 34 children wanted to be excluded from school.  They all wanted to be here," said Aman.

ABC11 also checked with Johnston County Monday, and a spokesperson said that Friday was the last day for their grace period. As of Friday, 92 students still needed to show proof of their shots.

Johnston County did not release a new headcount Monday nor say how many kids were sent home. Durham County did say 5 six graders still need their Tdap as of Monday.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported the state's first whooping cough death Friday. A 3-week-old from Transylvania County died from pertussis.

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