By Joel Hall
A recent audit of the immunization records of all 87 active day care centers operating in Clayton County, discovered that two-thirds of them either meet, or exceed, state mandates.
The mandates require at least 90 percent immunization compliance in day care facilities. Several of the centers are in 100 percent compliance this year, including Clayton County Head Start, and it's sister program, Clayton County Child Development. Head Start has maintained it's 100 percent compliance rate for the last three years.
"What that means is that every child at that school had a proper 3231 certificate that shows that the student has all of the required immunizations," said Freda Sheppard, immunization coordinator for the Clayton County Board of Health.
"There is something to be said for the Head Start program being 100 percent. That shows that every child in their care has the immunizations that they need and that they are on top of that."
For immunization records to be in compliance, they must be stamped, dated, signed by licensed doctors, and properly maintained. Clayton County Head Start was able to do this for 341 students of lower, socio-economic backgrounds, despite language barriers and cultural or religious reservations parents may have toward having their children vaccinated.
Malinda Malden, Clayton County Head Start health and nutrition specialist, said making sure that all the parents properly vaccinate their children takes a lot of communication.
"We don't just send the notice out," said Malden. "We are in constant communication with parents. Besides monitoring, we follow through to make sure it happens.
"We will step in and pay, if we have to, to make sure that child gets immunized," Malden continued. "We just try to educate them on why it is important."
Sheppard, who completed the immunization audits over the course of three months, said immunizing children in day care facilities is a matter of public safety, and that not doing so "puts the general public at risk."
"It's very important, not just for the children in the facility, but to the public at large," said Sheppard. "If we stop immunizing, then we are going to see those diseases come back."
Nadine Hayes, director of the Clayton County Child Development day care center, said achieving 100 percent compliance was a high point in her 12 years of working at the center.
"I'm very excited," said Hayes. "It's the first time it's happened since I have been here. Communication with the parents really made a difference with us this year.
"We've been close before," Hayes added. "This time, we really stayed on top of it, so that means that everybody was communicating with who they needed to communicate with, to make sure that things were being done."