School districts crack down on student vaccinations

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. – August is National Immunization Awareness Month and local school districts are cracking down on students who may be behind on theirs scheduled vaccinations.

Henrico County Public Health Nurse Nicole McCurrach said her crew has teamed up with Henrico County Public Schools to administer state-required vaccines before school starts.

“In the last few months, we gave almost 1,100 vaccines. So we feel like we’ve got Henrico County on a good path so that their students can go back to school and hopefully the surrounding areas or have been able to do the same,” McCurrach said.

Several school districts, including Chesterfield County Public Schools, are warning parents that documentation of vaccines must be provided to their school before a student can begin or they may not start on time.

“We really don’t play around when we say you won’t be able to go to school and the school administration won’t let you in,” McCurrach explained. “We’re serious. We’re back to the point, pre-pandemic, where that’s the way things were.”

A tool on Virginia Department of Health website gives a better insight into which school districts are behind in those vaccinations.

Using fall 2022 data, VDH said the state public school immunization rate is 79.9% for 12th graders. Henrico tops the list locally with 90.9% of their 12th graders caught up on vaccinations.

Richmond’s 12th grade rate is 67.3%, while Chesterfield’s rate is only 32.1% in the fall of 2022.

“We are working closely with the Chesterfield County Public Schools nursing team to get as many students vaccinated as we can before school starts,” Chesterfield Health District said in an email. “We are pleased to say that the diligent work of Chesterfield Health District, CCPS and partner organizations to force multiply immunization education has resulted in a 41% increase in our vaccination volume compared to January-June 2022.”

A spokesman for Chesterfield Schools said the rate could change when nurses return in August.

“Since school nurses are not in schools during the month of July, many of the students who received vaccinations through private medical providers have not yet been entered into the system,” CCPS spokesman Shawn Smith said.

Since March, Chesterfield Schools has warned parents that “your student may not be able to start school on time if they do not have required vaccinations.”

McCurrach mentioned that there are religious exemptions that families can seek for their students. But she encouraged families who are behind on shots to contact their local health departments and health districts to make a deal.

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