Not all get school immunizations
Back to school means back to the doctor for many Colorado students.
Local students are expected to have a history of 16 immunizations by the time they enroll in 12th grade. Students in each grade are supposed to prove they have received or will soon receive the appropriate immunizations at school registration. But it’s not always that simple, according to District 51 Nursing Coordinator Tanya Marvin.
A registered nurse checks immunization records each year for every kindergartner and sixth-grader in the district because those are the two grades when students are most likely to arrive at school with fresh vaccinations. Health assistants check the records of students in other grades.
Checking all of those records while performing other beginning-of-the-year work keeps the district’s health workers so busy that students rarely are sent home for not having proper immunizations before Oct. 1, Marvin said. Often it takes much longer for a noncomplying student to get suspended.
“If we have to suspend, we send out a letter starting in November or December, saying if you don’t have an immunization in 14 days, you’ll be suspended,” Marvin said.
Marvin said that 14-day window is coordinated with Thanksgiving or winter break as much as possible, so parents and students can schedule an immunization on a day off.
“We try to have the whole process done by January,” she said.
Some students never get immunizations, but they are excused because a parent cited a medical reason, such as a family history of allergic reaction to a particular vaccine, or because of personal or religious views.
Marvin said personal views are the most common reason 4.5 percent of elementary students in District 51 opted out of at least one vaccination as of May 16.
“What those people believe is the immunization somehow changes how your body perceives things and makes you more susceptible to something,” Marvin said.
An exempted student still can be removed from school temporarily during an outbreak of an illness that has a vaccine, such as mumps or pertussis. Cases of measles reported this spring in Utah had local schools on the alert. No cases were detected over the border in western Colorado, so unvaccinated students were allowed to remain in class.
Even with exemption rates as high as 9 percent at New Emerson School, the Mesa County Health Department gave 1,518 immunizations between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15 last year, a 7 percent increase from the same period in 2007.
Immunizations can result in local or systemic reactions, according to Health Department spokeswoman Karen Martsolf. Local reactions include swelling, redness and pain at the injection site, and systemic reactions can include fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue and loss of appetite.
“Children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated are at risk for disease that vaccinations can prevent. Some of these diseases can be very serious, and in some cases fatal,” Martsolf said.
The Health Department will offer a back-to-school immunization clinic from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at its 510 29 1/2 Road office. Immunizations are $14.50 each at the Health Department and may be covered by insurance.
The Health Department also offers immunizations at its 29 1/2 Road headquarters from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Immunizations are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Thursdays at the Health Department’s Fruita office at 215 N. Plum St.