MOULTRIE -- School nurses are reminding parents to vaccinate elementary school students ascending to the sixth grade before the end of this school year.

State law mandates that all sixth graders must have had the chickenpox and two measles, one mumps and one rubella vaccinations or proof of immunity, so Colquitt County School Nurse Coordinator Suzanne Sumner is encouraging parents to submit the paperwork to their child's elementary school before school lets out for summer vacation.

Last week, state officials audited the middle schools. C.A. Gray Middle School had 99.4 percent compliance, while Willie J. Williams School had 98.7 percent.

Good scores, although Sumner laments minor paperwork slip-ups in double checking the records for errors and omissions.

Policies are in place to catch unimmunized children before they enter the student population. Last year, students without proof of vaccination were not allowed to enter school until their parents produced the documentation to the schools, Sumner said.

"It's sad, but until we do that, they will not provide us what we need," she said.

Of course, there are a few children in the system who don't have to be immunized due to religious rights and medical reasons. But even those children would have to be immunized if an outbreak occurred, she said.

"We are tracking it harder than ever," Sumner said.

Each month, school nurses submit immunization reports to the board of education. Colquitt County Schools Superintendent Leonard McCoy has been pushing to make the already exceptional effort even better.

"Sure I've been advocating it. First of all it's the law. ... The second thing is a matter of advocating for children's health," McCoy said, noting that if the state didn't mandate compliance, many children would be vulnerable to these diseases.

Plus, it's a matter of community health, he said.

"If we don't do what we are supposed to in requiring that these various things occur, particularly with the population of Colquitt County being more mobile than it has been in the past -- even extending across international boundary lines -- then we're opening greater opportunities for health hazards," the superintendent said.

"Our health services for children and, consequently, the community have vastly improved over the past few years due to the tobacco settlement money, due to very good leadership for our school nurses through Mrs. Sumner. I'm really pleased," he said.

Documentation can be obtained on Form 3189 at a primary care provider or the public health clinic.

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