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Friday
Sep272013

Hundreds NC Students Suspended for Vaccination Lapse

iStock/Getty Images(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- Hundreds of students in North Carolina have been suspended from attending school because they failed to get vaccinated.

At least 200 students in three counties had not turned in their certificate of immunization form as of Friday to prove they had received a Tdap shot. The shot is a combination of three vaccines that provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).

Under a 2008 North Carolina law, all incoming sixth graders must get a Tdap booster shot within 30 days of the new school year.

Wednesday was the cutoff.

According to school officials, sixth graders in the state, who had not been vaccinated and who did not have an approved exemption, can no longer attend public school until they provide the proper vaccination certification.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Sept. 11 there would be a nationwide shortage of the Tdap vaccine until mid-October as a result of a delayed vaccine lot.

The shortage lead the Illinois State Board of Education to send a memo this week to school officials saying the Tdap vaccine shortage would be considered when deciding if a school is in compliance with the required vaccination protocols.

Officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said, however, that there had been no shortage of the vaccine provided to the federal vaccine for children program. Various health departments in different counties have been hosting free clinics so students could easily receive free vaccinations earlier this week.

In Guilford County, approximately 66 students had still not turned in their proof of immunization by Wednesday afternoon. Health clinics were open to students on Wednesday for free shots and on Thursday students could make appointments for free shots.

In the Winston-Salem County and Forsythe County School district, which is adjacent to the Guilford school district, another 177 students had not turned in their proof of immunization as of Wednesday.

The number was significantly diminished from the 1,400 kids who had been at risk of being suspended at the beginning of the week.

Both school districts have been alerting parents by mail and phone of the deadline since April.

Theo Helm, spokesman for the Winston-Salem school district, said while students in other grades, such as kindergarten, were also required to have specific vaccinations before the school year, only the sixth graders consistently fell behind.

"It's like this every year. It's like trying to get them to turn in their homework," said Helm. "I don't know why it balloons like this in the sixth grade."

Students can be exempted from vaccinations for specific religious or health reasons.

While the Tdap vaccination protects against three diseases, it's an increase in cases of pertussis or whooping cough that have consistently worried health officials.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio