New law means students without MMR immunization can’t be in class

Under new state law, children who are not vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella are prohibited in schools and day care centers unless their parents or guardians provide documentation proving a religious or medical reason exempting them from the law.

The Aberdeen and Hoquiam school districts have been communicating with parents for the past month and a half about the requirement, but both districts are reporting numerous students still not in compliance and said they won’t be allowed in their regular classes.

“We notified parents Friday that if students did not have proof of vaccination they would not be able to attend school on Monday,” said Aberdeen Superintendent Alicia Henderson. She said a few students arrived Monday without required documentation and families were notified to pick up their children.

“We’ve sent out letters to all of our families, and have nurses following up to help families locate where to get the vaccines,” said Henderson.

In Hoquiam, Oct. 16 marked the end of a 30-day grace period set by Superintendent Mike Villarreal. As of Tuesday, more than 100 students in the district still had not provided the necessary paperwork to attend school.

Villarreal said notices sent to families from Hoquiam School District also provided information as to where to get up to date on vaccinations.

Villarreal said Hoquiam students out of compliance with the state law who come to school will remain at the school office until a parent or guardian is notified and picks up the child. The student will not be allowed to go to their regular classes. If a parent or guardian cannot be contacted, that student will be sent to a separate classroom during the school day. Staff will monitor that classroom, activities will be provided, as will breakfast and lunch, and the day will be considered an excused absence for the student. The student will be sent home at the end of the day. The cycle repeats itself until the student’s immunizations are documented.

The law went into effect July 28 and removes the personal and philosophical option to exempt children from the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The law does not change the religious and medical exemptions to the MMR vaccinations, but students claiming these exemptions must provide documentation of those exemptions. Certificate of exemption – personal/religious forms are available from the state Department of Health.

The law places the burden of enforcing the law squarely on school districts, with some guidance from the Department of Health. The law states, “The exclusion of a child from a school shall be accomplished in accordance with rules of the office of the superintendent, in consultation with the state board of health.”

Villarreal said the district is still working on how to approach families who fail to provide proper immunization documentation and will likely approach each on a case-by-case basis. The reasons for failure to provide documentation can range from simply not having the time or financial means for doctor visits to philosophical reasons.

“It’s a series of three vaccinations that are spread out over a period of time, and in some cases I honestly think people get the first one then just forget,” said Henderson.