Out of thousands initially identified, only a handful of Merced area students haven't had the required Tdap immunization that will allow them to return to classes.
Leslie Schleth, lead registered nurse for the Merced City School District, said only two students at Tenaya Middle School haven't had Tdap shots. All seventh- and eighth-graders at the district's three other middle schools, about 2,100 students, have completed the requirement.
In the Merced Union High School District — which has about 10,000 students at campuses in Merced, Atwater and Livingston — only two students at Golden Valley High School hadn't gotten the Tdap shot by Tuesday. Immunization was required before students could return to school this fall, though the state issued a 30-day extension in August.
Darren Sylvia, the high school district's director of student support services, credited the comprehensive plan drafted in the spring by predecessor Marie Nelson, other administrators and staff members at each school with ramping up compliance with the state requirement enacted a year ago.
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State law does allow parents and guardians to select a "personal belief exemption" to skip having a child vaccinated.
Sylvia praised school nurses, Castle Family Health Centers and school staff with getting parents and students to comply with the immunization requirements.
Susan Coston, assistant superintendent for special education with the Merced County Office of Education, said it took a great deal of collaboration to get everyone the shots. The county schools office partnered with the Castle centers and the Merced County Public Health Department to make sure students were protected against whooping cough.
"It was quite a feat to get everybody vaccinated," she said. "We were happy to be able to pull it together."
Melinda Hennes, the Atwater Elementary School District's superintendent, said only seven district students hadn't gotten their vaccinations as of Tuesday and each situation was different.
Hennes was pleased with the cooperation of parents, and said the state Legislature's 30-day extension "really helped." School staff also worked diligently to make sure vaccination forms were returned by students.
At McSwain Union Elementary School District, only six students hadn't gotten their shots Tuesday, Superintendent Stan Mollart said. One student was going to get immunized Tuesday and one failed to bring the required form to school.
It came down to last-minute fliers, automated phone messages and personal phone calls to parents to get the job done, he said.
Richard Rios, public health program manager for the county Public Health Department, said the agency collaborated with all school districts and the county schools office to ensure students were vaccinated. He was pleased to hear only a handful of students hadn't been vaccinated.
Schleth said the intent of the vaccination program is to protect the very young, especially those under six months of age, from whooping cough.
"It's been a long process that started in February," Schleth said. "This is amazing. A lot of people are taking this very seriously. So many people were involved."
Sylvia said high school students didn't want to miss sports or activities and that helped build compliance. In some cases, students were pulled out of class and their parents were called to get immunization forms turned in.
When school started about a month ago, about 800 students hadn't gotten the Tdap immunization, Sylvia said. As of midweek last week, those numbers were whittled down to about 35 students.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.