Carter County Schools worst in region for kindergarten immunizations in 2014-15

TRI-CITIES, TN – (WJHL) While most parents are making sure their kids are up to date on their shots before they start kindergarten state records reveal Carter County Schools ranked near the bottom in the state when it came to the percentage of kids who were not properly immunized last year.


According to state records, out of the 4,635 kindergarteners in Northeast Tennessee just 48 were not up to date on the state’s required six shots last school year, but of those 48 kids, 22 came from Carter County. That means more than 5% of all Carter County kindergarteners had missing or inadequate shot records, according to 2014-2015 school year immunization data.

Carter County Coordinated School Health Director Beth Bare says the district is beginning to notice a trend. Bare says more students are securing temporary certificates from their doctors, which allow them to attend school while they’re in the process of catching up on their shots.

“Of those 22 students the vast majority of them were vaccinated, it’s just that they were maybe missing one booster or the information was reported on the wrong form,” Bare said. “We have noticed that some parents are choosing to be vaccinated on a delayed schedule, so that doesn’t mean that their child is not vaccinated at all, it just means that they’re going to receive vaccines later and in a slower manner.”

Northeast Regional Health Department Medical Director Dr. David Kirschke says that approach is not ideal.

“Spreading out vaccines is not a good idea, because the people most at risk for most of these diseases and preventable diseases are the youngest kids and if you spread them out you’re going to leave those kids vulnerable to these dangerous diseases,” Dr. Kirschke said.

He says he would like to see every child who is eligible for immunizations to get their shots before they start school. Otherwise, he says there’s too much of a risk.

“If we let our vaccination rates against measles slip a little bit (for example) we’re at risk of measles outbreaks,” Dr. Kirschke said. “Measles kills 150,000 kids every year.”

According to Bare, Carter County Schools expects the numbers to drop significantly this school year. She considers last year to be an anomaly since the previous four years the percentage of Carter County kindergarteners who were not in compliance were at 1.45% or lower.

“I confidently feel that last year’s numbers were an anomaly and we will be back around our previous averages or lower this year,” Bare said. “We have a couple of schools that were higher than normal and we’re going to work together with our principals and school nurses and go back and review those and make sure we are doing everything we can to encourage parents to get those vaccinations up to date so their children can attend school.”

According to Bare, Carter County Schools will compile and submit its annual immunization report to the state in the coming months.

“While this year’s report is not yet complete, the majority of schools have already reported no deficiencies and we will work closely with parents to ensure that any deficient students are brought up to date as quickly as possible.”

2014-2015 School Year

School District (TN)  % of Kindergarteners with missing
or inadequate immunization records
Carter County 5.33%
Greeneville 3.93%
Johnson City 1.61%
Kingsport 0.95%
Elizabethton 0.53%
Washington County 0.50%
Greene County 0.00%
Hawkins County 0.00%
Johnson County 0.00%
Rogersville 0.00%
Unicoi County 0.00%
Sullivan County 0.00%
Bristol 0.00%

*Source:  Tennessee Department of Health

Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.


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