44 percent of Richmond sixth graders overdue for Tdap vaccination

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Doctors and parents are responding to reports that nearly half of all Richmond City sixth graders missed school because they were not vaccinated in time.

Some, like VCU Children’s Hospital General Pediatrician Dr. Sean McKenna, say it could come down to forgetful parents.

“I think it’s just that parents often forget that they need that vaccine, and so when it’s time for sixth grade, we often have the rush of the forms coming in and we have the parents realizing that there’s a need for that vaccine,” McKenna explained.

This school year, nearly 44 percent of Richmond sixth graders missed class time because they were overdue for the Tdap vaccine that is required before kids can enter into middle school.

“Tetanus, diptheria, a-celluar pertussis vaccine, before kids enter sixth grade is crucial because the immunity could be waning,” McKenna added.

Part of the reason why vaccine rates are slowing could be due to concerns over side effects and a rise in an anti-vaccine movement, raising questions for parents.

Tammy Olgers is a parent who had her kids immunized years ago when they were of age. But now she says, “I’m kind of torn. I feel like it’s really important, but then there’s some information that makes you question, ‘well, how safe is it?”

To bring everyone up to date on their shots, Richmond Public Schools has joined efforts with Mayor Levar Stoney and the Richmond Health District with the new ‘Level Up’ campaign, allowing fifth graders to get the Tdap shot for free.

“The important message is that it is a lifetime vaccination, and we do this not only to keep ourselves healthy, the patient, but also to keep the community healthy,” Dr. McKenna added.

He also stresses that vaccines are safe and you can get the Tdap vaccination at most clinics.

For more information on the ‘Level Up’ campaign, click here.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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