By Alex O’Connell, Correspondent
CHAPEL HILL – A joint program by the Orange County Health Department and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to encourage adolescent immunizations has come under criticism by some parents.
Called the Adolescents Get Immunized campaign, children from grades five through 12 are encouraged to be inoculated against meningococcal disease; human papillomavirus (HPV); and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (or Tdap). Of these, Tdap vaccination is mandatory for children entering the sixth grade, while the other two are recommended.
Besides education and walk-in vaccination clinics, the campaign includes a contest, which is the source of some parents’ concern.
Students who show proof of vaccination between April 1 and May 31 to their school nurse by June 1 are eligible for a drawing to win an iPod or laptop. Three winners, from the fifth grade, middle school and high school levels, will be drawn.
The prizes are sponsored by Paul and Cora Harrison, a Chapel Hill couple whose daughter died of meningococcal disease and now advocate greater awareness of the disease.
Some parents say the contest encourages a procedure they consider unsafe.
“The school system, or state, is endorsing an unnecessary medical procedure that carries the risk of serious injury or death, and they are not informing the contest participants of that risk,” said Alan Phillips, a parent of a 17-year-old in a Chapel Hill high school.
Phillips said he understands the school district’s good intentions but takes issue with the lack of full disclosure on the possible problems and side effects caused by vaccinations.