Less than half of 6th graders sign up for free shots

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Beginning next year each Texas seventh grader will need to be vaccinated for meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, chicken pox and whooping cough. Texas seventh graders will not be allowed to attend school, even on the first day, without the vaccinations. Nacogdoches schools are administering them to 6th graders who turned in their paper work on time. The vaccines will be administered through three separate shots. "We'll see how brave they are," laughed Brenda Whitman, a school nurse.

The changes came about for several reasons. With vericella, doctors now know chicken pox boosters are needed sooner. "There were some break through diseases, so they were experiencing chicken pox at a later age, like middle school and high school age, even though they had received the vericella vaccine before they started kindergarten, " explained Whitman.

With meningitis doctors know middle school students spread germs. "These are the students who share drinks. They share cokes. They share lip gloss," said Whitman.

Whooping cough is on the list because more and more people are getting it. Middle school teacher Toni Trees came down with it earlier this year.   "boy, I never want that again and I certainly don't want it passed around school," said Trees. She experienced dry coughs that would sap her energy. "We didn't have any whooping cough in our district, but there were some cases in the Lufkin schools," said Whitman. "This can be very devastating illness which had been previously eradicated."

It can be eradicated again if people get vaccinated. Yet less than half of the sixth graders at each school signed up for the free vaccines. "A little disappointing," commented Whitman. Parents may be the disappointed ones. Not all doctors participate in the free vaccine program. Parents can be charged over $150 for something offered free at school.