Parents reminded of immunization requirements

Mercer County Schools and the state of West Virginia recognize that immunization saves lives and protects children.  For children’s well-being, schools require that parents of youngsters entering kindergarten for the first time provide the school an immunization record.  Further, beginning last year, all students entering 7th and 12th grade must show proof of immunization against several serious diseases before they can be enrolled.

Specifically, students entering 7th grade (as well as eighth-graders who did not meet the required immunizations last year) must show proof of a booster dose of Tdap vaccine which protects against Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Purtussis (Whooping Cough), and a dose of MCV4 vaccine which guards against Meningitis.  Twelfth-graders must also show proof of a single dose of Tdap, plus a booster dose of MCV4 if the first does was given before the child’s 16th birthday.

Although, at present, Tdap and meningococcal vaccinations are required only for entry into 7th and 12th grade, they are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for adolescents beginning at age 11. Parents are encouraged to have their child immunized after they turn 11, rather than wait until right before the start of 7th or 12th grade, to ensure that their child is fully protected from these vaccine-preventable diseases throughout their adolescence.

The Tdap vaccine protects against Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. Pertussis is very contagious and can last for 10 weeks or more. If Pertussis is transmitted to infants, it can be life-threatening. Young children are protected when they get the Tdap vaccine, but protection wears off as kids get older, so adolescents need the Tdap booster.

The meningococcal vaccine prevents Bacterial Meningitis, an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that is caused by a serious bacterial infection. This infection can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, amputations, and even death.

While Tdap and meningococcal vaccines are the only two immunizations presently required for 7th and 12th graders, the HPV and seasonal influenza vaccines are also recommended for adolescents. The HPV vaccine prevents strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over a 6-month period—and it is very important to get all three shots to be fully protected.

Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective preventive measures available and have saved countless lives. These new adolescent immunization requirements will not only lengthen the time for which immunized students are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, but will also lower their chances of passing diseases to infants, the elderly, classmates with weakened immune systems, and others.

Because the immunization schedule can be difficult for parents to navigate, experts recommend a well-child check-up so that a doctor can determine and administer any immunizations or boosters that may be needed.

Parents and children who have no family physician are encouraged to call or visit the Mercer County Health Department for an immunization check-up at St. Luke’s/ Pavilion, 1331 Southview Drive, Bluefield (304-324-8846).

 The Vaccines for Children Program provides free vaccines to children who are 18-years-old or younger.  Children enrolled in Medicaid or WVCHIP also receive state-supplied vaccines at no cost to parents.

For additional information, call the WV Division of Immunization Services at 1-800-642-3634 or visit