Randolph County schools are scheduled to resume classes on Aug. 20. On Sept. 4, about the same number of students should be in the classrooms as were the first day. At least we hope so.
The one thing that could make the difference is if students entering seventh and 12th grade have received their required vaccines and returned the proper form to their schools.
A new state law and West Virginia Board of Education policy mandate that seventh-graders receive a Tdap vaccine booster and a dose of the meningococcal vaccine, while seniors get a single dose of Tdap and a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine if the first dose was given before the age of 16. School administrators and the state are rather adamant about having the vaccine verifications. No form means no admission to school. The only exceptions will be those who present a letter from their doctors.
The new requirement follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple has said immunizations are essential in keeping children healthy and are a vital part of public health.
Granted, not everyone agrees. However, the diseases prevented by the vaccines - tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and bacterial meningitis - are serious.
Earlier this month, the CDC reported that cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, are rising at an epidemic rate and could reach the highest numbers in five decades. The very contagious disease can last for 10 weeks or more and is life-threatening in infants. Bacterial meningitis, a swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, is caused by a very serious infection that can become deadly in 48 hours or less.
Children can receive these vaccinations from their doctors or the Elkins-Randolph Health Department. The majority of students have not yet turned in their forms. For the safety of our school population and our community in general, we encourage parents to make sure their seventh- and 12th-graders meet this requirement as soon as possible. Someone's life may depend on it.