Public school districts in Oregon are taking a stand against parents who choose not to vaccinate their children in a big way — by instituting an Immunization Exclusion Day, where kids who aren't up-to-date on their shots or don't have legitimate medical or nonmedical exemption are sent home from school on Feb. 21.
In an effort to combat the dwindling number of students who weren't vaccinated, health officials in Oregon introduced a bill in 2017 designed to increase the immunization rate, which included an Immunization Exclusion Day for the first time.
So how exactly does the process work? Parents were required to submit their child's vaccination or exemption forms in person or through the mail before Feb. 21. If they failed to do so, their children weren't permitted in school until their records were up-to-date. And according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, kids can be banned from school for much longer than a single day:
Starting Feb. 21, children will not be able to attend class if they don't have immunization or exemption paperwork submitted prior to that date. Records need to have been submitted to the school, by mail or in person, prior to the start of the school day on (Wednesday) Feb. 21. A parent or guardian may submit appropriate documentation/proof of immunization at any time on or after Exclusion Day and their child will immediately be allowed back in school.
Students are expected to be vaccinated for several diseases based on their age, including: DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Acellular Pertussis vaccine), polio, varicella (chicken pox), measles/rubella/mumps, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae), and hepatitis A and B.
And this is a pretty important incentive for families, especially given the fact that The Oregonian dubbed Oregon "the most vaccine-skeptical state in the nation" back in 2013.
Maria Duron, a spokeswoman for the Hermiston School District, explained that striving for herd immunity is a top priority. "It is very important for our students to be up-to-date with their immunizations to help protect their peers and prevent others from contracting illnesses, some of which could be fatal." Last year, her school district sent home 84 children, according to a report by The Hermiston Herald. The data from this year isn't available yet.
Umatilla County Public Health Administrator Jim Setzer agrees, explaining that in order to prevent outbreaks of diseases that have already been eradicated, every school-age child needs to have up-to-date forms.
"Immunization is the very best and safest way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles," he said, adding that, "Immunization helps keep our schools and community safe and healthy."