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Schools on target with kids’ shots

POSTED: January 8, 2009 5:48 p.m.

The Coastal Health District recognized several Effingham County schools for their immunization audit, and nursing coordinator Marsha Cornell was presented an award at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

Coastal Health District school health coordinator Marsha Pierce said it’s great to be able to recognize Effingham County schools and an accomplishment that “probably just isn’t on the forefront of your radar screens.”

“Because of Marsha’s help and partnership and leadership with us , our district has enjoyed a lot of tremendous benefits from public health, money wise, grant wise, equipment wise,” Cornell said.

Pierce said children’s health is important to schools because if kids are sick, that means they’re not in school.

“And you know that really impacts things like (adequate yearly progress), impacts your test scores, impacts their ability to learn when they’re not here,” she said. “The interesting thing is when I was a kid we had measles, we had chicken pox, we had mumps. Could you imagine what would be happening to attendance today if we were not able to provide vaccinations to kids, and prevent all of those diseases?”

She said vaccines have a great impact on schools and on student learning. Pierce said there was a report of many school systems in the Atlanta area failing immunization audits. The immunization audits are done for the shot records of every child in kindergarten or in sixth grade and also look at proper adolescent immunizations.

“There’s two times that kids really get a lot of immunizations — childhood and now as they’re getting into the middle school age range,” Pierce said. “I’m very proud to tell you all that on average Effingham County kindergarten immunization results were 99 percent. Lo and behold when we checked the sixth grade immunization audits, they were actually 99 percent, too.”

Pierce said that is a “remarkable result” for an audit, especially since the law requiring sixth grade audits only changed two years ago.

“That means that a lot of people were doing, number one, a lot of education about health issues and the effects and importance of immunizations,” she said. “It takes a tremendous amount of coordination just to identify kids whose records aren’t complete, notify parents, get the parents the right information about what they need.”

She said there is a goal of 100 percent complete records, but many schools don’t feel that is possible.

“In Effingham County, seven of your schools got 100 percent on their audits,” she said. “That is a tremendous amount of work on the part of the school nurses, as well as the data clerks.”

There was one school with 99.6 percent, two with 99 percent, two with 98 percent and one with 95 percent.

Cornell received the Walt Orenstein Champions for Immunizations award for the current school year, which Pierce said is prestigious statewide award.

Cornell was on the leadership team to create a program called mother-daughter evening out events, a cervical cancer prevention education opportunity for ninth grade students and their mothers. Pierce said the programs at both high schools were well received by the students and parents.

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