Oregon to families: No shots, no school

A week from today is Oregon’s “school exclusion day,” intended to send home students who are not fully vaccinated to stay until they are.

The state recently made key changes to its immunization laws, including voiding religion exemptions signed before March 2014. As well, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations, or have an exemption.

Letters saying that were mailed to families across the state at the first of February.

The Oregon Health Authority said it sent out more than 40,000 such notices last year, and nearly 7,000 kids were sent home on exclusion day.

In 2016 the Umatilla County public health department sent 695 letters to families in the county with students who had inadequate vaccinations, and 43 for students with no shot record on file, said James Setzer, director of Umatilla County Health.

This year, 651 students in the county have an incomplete vaccinations statues and 43, again, have no immunization record on file at a school.

In Milton-Freewater, 90 exclusion orders have been issued in the public school district, county officials said.

Knowing just which immunizations were most missing in action is difficult, Setzer said, but his staff thought TDAP — tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis — and the second dose of Hepatitis A vaccine were the most common cause of exclusions across the county.

Rob Clark, superintendent in Milton-Freewater, said a count by the district show that it’s mostly middle-school kids who need to get caught up vaccinations.

Clark said some parents end up caught off guard because kids at that age need a booster shot.

“Parents forget,” he said, adding some families are unaware of locations to get the immunizations and some just move it down the to-do list until faced with a child not being able to go to school.

Setzer said parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their health care provider or local health department.

No one can be turned away from a public health department because of inability to pay for required vaccines.

Pharmacists can also immunize children age 7 years and older.