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11 without vaccines sent home

Seventy-six Suffolk sixth graders still have not shown proof of their Tdap immunization, according to Bethanne Bradshaw, public information and community relations officer for Suffolk Public Schools.

Tuesday was the first exclusion day for Suffolk, when students would be sent home if the school did not have proof of the vaccine. Most of the 76 stayed home, Bradshaw said, but 11 students arrived at school and were sent home. Not counted in those numbers are three students who were sent home from school and returned with the required paperwork. It is not known if any students claimed religious exemptions, or could not get the vaccine due to an allergy to it.

The 2006 General Assembly passed a law effective in July of this year that required all sixth graders to have the Tdap booster shot before the start of school in September. The Virginia Department of Health extended the deadline to Dec. 4.

The booster offers protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Most children get their last Tdap shot by age 5 or 6, and need a booster around the time they enter middle school, due to decreased immunity.

Any child who has had the immunization within the last five years does not need to repeat it, but the school needs proof of the shot from the child’s doctor or the local health department.

For those who haven’t had the vaccine, the Suffolk Health Department, 1217 N. Main St., will hold walk-in immunization hours today through Friday from 2-3:30 p.m. The booster is free for sixth graders.

Anyone with questions should call their child’s doctor or the Health Department at 686-4900.

tracy.agnew@suffolknewsherald.com