Most Beaufort County seventh-graders meet Tdap vaccine deadline

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 20, 2013 

More than 30 Beaufort County seventh-graders turned in some long-overdue homework Friday morning -- proof they had received a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

But 18 seventh-grade students out of 1,547 across the county still had not received the shot, and they were not allowed to attend school Friday, district spokesman Jim Foster said.

A new regulation required all South Carolina seventh-graders to have the Tdap booster before returning to school in August, but many families were given 30-day extensions. Those extensions expired Friday.

While the district preferred not to send any students home, Foster said it is happy with the progress it saw in recent weeks before the deadline.

"This is a really positive step, considering we started out with more than 1,500 students needing this," he said. "And we do know that Beaufort County has far fewer seventh-graders still needing this than other districts."

Lady's Island Middle School and Hilton Head Island Middle School have all of their certificates in. The district's four other middle schools -- Beaufort, Bluffton, Whale Branch and Robert Smalls -- still have a few students needing the shot.

Students had to have proof they have been vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption, said Lindsey Evans, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman. The district did not receive many exemptions, Foster said, but he did not have exact numbers.

Parents whose children did not have one of the three forms were called to pick up their children from school. The seventh-graders were kept in a supervised area away from vaccinated students until their parents arrived.

Some parents were getting their children immunized Friday, and the students were able to return to school for a half-day.

Just 10 days ago, the district still had about 350 students who needed the shot. That number was down to 50 at the end of Thursday. DHEC offices in Bluffton and Beaufort have held clinics in recent weeks -- several this week were overbooked -- to give students the shot.

Bluffton Middle School lead nurse Meg Hendy said she hopes the rest of the students will come Monday with the certificates so they don't have to sit out any longer. She also said she hopes parents of sixth-graders start to get their kids the shots now so the district doesn't have to give any extensions next year.

"The deadline works, and now parents understand the severity and tenacity to which we'll go to get this done and get the shots in, because it's very important," she said. "We are here for the health of the child ... and we don't want any outbreaks or problems here."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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