Missing vaccinations: The canary in the rural health care coal mine

This is a systemic failure, not a religious backlash:

Pitt County Schools was forced to suspend a number of students who did not receive vaccines after sending warnings to about 300 as a deadline approached last month, officials said.

State law requires students have standard vaccinations in place 30 days after enrollment unless they have a religious exemption. If students do not have the vaccines, they are suspended until they receive them. The number of suspended students was not available at the meeting. The school system did not respond to subsequent requests to provide the information.

Pitt County is actually in better shape coverage-wise than other regional counties, but when you get outside of Greenville, it doesn't seem that way. The lack of vaccinations signals another troubling issue: A lot of the children are not receiving periodic well-care treatment, and that is unsettling, to say the least:

Harrington said she had discussed the situation with Kimberly Hardy, director of nursing and personal health at the health department, and Felicia Mosley-Williams, director of Vidant’s school nurse program. They aren’t sure why more students failed to get vaccinated this year, she said.

“It was really the seventh graders this year, and what I’m hearing from them is that these children in general tend to be the kids that are not receiving well-child checkups,” she said.

She said most of the approximately 300 students who received warnings were vaccinated before the deadline. She said all of the middle schools in Pitt County saw suspensions. In general, the students affected are lower income. These absences are considered medical absences and will not count against the students. They are allowed to make up any work they missed.

“It concerns me that parents aren’t used to that,” Harrington said. “In the past, we did offer vaccines in schools, but when the health department faced cuts, we stopped that. That’s one of the ideas we’re looking at moving forward. … Our preference would be to not offer immunizations in the schools. But we’re willing to open up our school doors if it will increase access.”

And once again we are faced with the rich county/poor county problem. Pitt County's property tax rate is pretty high (.69 per $100), so there's really no room to move there. Either the state needs to send more funding to the County, or send more clinical resources. One of those two things. Because (of course) the Free Market won't fix this problem.



Kind of old for a school kid...

When my daughter told me I needed to get a TDAP vaccine, I was like, "I got all those shots when I went into the Army!" Apparently they don't last forever...anyway, the reason I used my picture was so I could tell you how much that vaccine cost without health insurance: $68.

The state/county/school system needs to not only purchase the vaccines for these kids, they need to provide easy access to the immunizations themselves. Even if those kids are on Medicaid (don't assume they are), walking into a drug store and asking for a shot is either going to cost money or dignity for many parents.