Are your children's vaccines up to date?
There are not many reasons for educators to pull kids out of school, but when it comes to protecting the health of students, schools are forced to take that step.
School Exclusion Day is Feb. 20, a day when children who are not up to date on state-mandated vaccinations are barred from attending class unless they have a documented exemption.
"School exclusion exists to protect the population of school-age children from communicable diseases that are preventable with vaccines," explains Stacy Hansen, immunization coordinator with the Crook County Health Department.
Of primary concern are such diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and hepatitis A and B as well as measles, mumps, rubella, polio and varicella (chicken pox).
"Those are easily transmitted and easily vaccinated against," Hansen said.
She went on to note that while vaccines exist for other afflictions, such as the flu, those vaccines are not required in order to attend school.
Although School Exclusion Day is just a week away, Hansen said that health officials and schools approach parents early if they need to update their child's vaccinations. Parents get sent a letter that is addressed to them and to the school – just in case the parents have had a change of address.
"It details which vaccinations their children need to be able to continue to go to school, and if they are against vaccinations, the ways that they can go about achieving non-medical exemptions," she said.
Those letters are sent after Hansen reviews reports sent to her by the schools that detail each child's vaccination needs as well as any medical or non-medical exemptions the student might have.
"Then I compile a list, and I review everything through the state database," she said.
Exclusion letters were mailed out to parents this past Wednesday, however, schools also sent letters prior to that date to make them aware that they might receive an exclusion letter.
Those parents who receive an exclusion letter and want to update their child's vaccination can choose from several local locations. They can see the child's regular health care provider or they can go to the School Based Health Center. The Health Department provides school exclusion shot clinics on Feb. 14 and 21, and local pharmacies can vaccinate children 7 years and older.
Those parents who seek a non-medical exemption will be asked by the Health Department to take an online course or a course provided by an authorized medical professional such as a physician or nurse practitioner.
"They can receive a certificate saying that their child is non-medically exempt from receiving the vaccination, then they turn that into their school," Hansen said.
This particular Exclusion Day comes on the heels of a measles outbreak in the Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon area. The outbreak has prompted some people to visit the health department and request a vaccination, something that Hansen and other health officials are happy to see, whether it's for measles or any other disease.
"We love it when children are vaccinated because it does increase overall health of the population and decreases the spread of disease," Hansen said.
Crook County Health Department
375 NW Beaver St. Suite 100
Crook County School Based Health Center
641 E. First St.
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