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State issues new immunization requirements for students

COVINGTON – The Georgia Department of Public Health has revised school immunization requirements for rising seventh-graders, meaning that students in the Newton County School System must receive Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and MCV (meningococcal conjugate) vaccines before the next school year.

In a letter to state Superintendent John Barge, Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said that as of July 1, all children born on or after Jan. 1, 2002, who are attending seventh grade must receive both vaccines prior to the 2014-15 school year.

A press release from NCSS Public Relations Director Sherri Davis-Viniard advised parents to “plan to have your child vaccinated well in advance of the start of the 2014-15 school year. Seventh grade students will not receive class schedules unless they have these vaccines. If you have questions please contact your school nurse.”

Fitzgerald said she hopes that this new requirement will diminish disease rates in Georgia.

“The addition of these new school requirements will lead to an increase in immunization coverage levels in Georgia and reduce disease not only in these populations but throughout the state,” said Fitzgerald. “Data from the National Immunization Survey (NIS) ranked Georgia 39th in Tdap rates and 22nd in meningococcal rates. Implementation of these new requirements will increase vaccine coverage rates and protect Georgia children enrolled in school as well as family members and others in the community. We are optimistic that this reduction in disease rates will concomitantly reduce school absentee rates and thereby also improve students’ performance.”

The Tdap and MCV vaccine requirements will also apply to new entrants into a Georgia school from eighth through 12th grades. A new entrant is defined as any child entering any school in Georgia for the first time or entering after having been absent from a Georgia school for more than 12 months or one school year.