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Kanawha County students drop out over vaccination requirements

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two Kanawha County students dropped out of high school over this year's new vaccine requirements, chief school nurse Brenda Isaac said.

Isaac said she's not sure whether the students who dropped out would have remained in school anyway. She said one was 18 years old and the other was 19, so they may have used the new requirements as an excuse.

"Whether we would have kept them or not, I don't know," she said. "The goal was not to be punitive. The goal was to see how many kids we could get immunized."

Isaac, speaking at a Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health meeting Tuesday, said one county middle school student also missed a few days because their parent was being "uncooperative" about getting the newly required shots. That student has now been vaccinated, however.

Isaac, in addition to her duties with the school system, is also the president of the health board.

Beginning this school year, students entering seventh and 12th grades were required to be vaccinated against pertussis, tetanus and meningitis. Students who did not receive those shots were not to be allowed to attend class.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources in August announced there would be a two-week grace period, after realizing many students still had not received the vaccines.

Kanawha County Schools was even more lenient with students, allowing children to attend school without the required shots as long as their parents promised to schedule a doctor's appointment or take them to a vaccine clinic at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Susan Jordan, nurse supervisor for the health department, said the new requirements significantly boosted the number of vaccinations given this year.

The health department administered 1,253 "tdap" vaccinations - which protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis - from April 1 to Sept. 15.

Last year, the health department gave only 583.

More meningitis vaccinations also were given. Last year the health department gave 170 of those shots. Nurses administered 1,067 meningitis vaccinations this year.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, environmental health director Anita Ray told board members the health department's sanitarians have now evaluated 84 restaurants under the new rating system.

The rating system uses the number of health violations noted at a restaurant to assign it an "excellent," "good" or "fair" rating. The system is being tested in restaurants in South Charleston and along Corridor G.

Ray said of the 84 restaurants, 46 have been rated "excellent;" 31 have been rated "good;" and seven have been rated "fair."

She said she hasn't received any feedback, positive or negative, about the program.

Board member Shannon Snodgrass asked Ray if the new rating system has encouraged restaurants to do better in their health inspections. Ray said so far the number of violations has not changed.

In other business, Janet Briscoe, the department's director of epidemiology and threat preparedness, told board members the health department likely will receive $88,000 in a grant from the Bureau for Public Health.

The department originally applied for the grant through Local Health, Inc., a nonprofit organization that distributes grant money to state health departments. But the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department left LHI in April over concerns the group had conflicts in awarding the federal dollars.

The health department was allowed to reapply for the grant in August, this time as an independent entity. Briscoe said the Bureau for Public Health already has approved the health department for $22,000, and she has heard the remaining $66,000 could be on its way.

Under LHI, the health department was approved for only $44,100.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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