CHARLESTON, W.Va. – To protect students from contracting preventable disease, the West Virginia Board of Education on Wednesday resolved to back efforts to enforce recommended immunization practices issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
In adopting the resolution, board members endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that students entering seventh grade this fall receive the Tdap vaccine booster along with the meningococcal vaccine. Twelfth graders also must show proof of a single dose of Tdap and a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine if the first dose was given before the age of 16.
The Tdap shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough. Whooping cough is a very contagious disease that can last for 10 weeks or more and is life-threatening in infants. The meningococcal vaccine prevents bacterial meningitis, a swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that is caused by a very serious infection that can become deadly in 48 hours or less.
“Immunizations are a vital part of public health and help make sure our students are free from preventable communicable diseases,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “We must take every step we can to keep our children as safe and healthy as possible, and immunizations are essential. A healthy child is one who is in school and can learn.”
The board also expressed its support of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health’s Interpretive Rule on Immunization Requirements and Recommendations for New School Enterers. Earlier this year, the board updated its policies to include the new immunization guidelines for seventh and 12th graders. The policy incorporates the CDC recommendations as well as the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources requirements.
The state board also shared its support by filing a friend of the court brief in pending litigation that challenges the legality of the new adolescent immunization requirements. The state board also recommended all county school systems continue parent and student support while being diligent stewards of the new adolescent immunization rule to prevent further spread of vaccine preventable diseases.
In addition to the board’s resolution, Marple issued a memorandum to county superintendents reminding them West Virginia law allows for medical exemptions only when it comes to immunization requirements. Religious and philosophical exemptions are not recognized. Still, a one-time, two-week grace period will be allowed this school year for parents and guardians to provide immunization records of the newly required adolescent vaccinations. The resolution is part of the state board’s efforts to place a priority on improving student health and wellness.
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