SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane families have just about a month to vaccinate their kids and get their immunization paperwork up to date before their kids are asked to stay home from school.
This year, the vaccination process will look a little different, thanks to a new state law that went into effect back in July. The law takes the personal and philosophical exemption for the measles vaccine off the table, now requiring those students to either get vaccinated or file religious or medical exemptions before they can go to class.
Last year, Spokane County had the sixth-highest rate of personal vaccine exemptions in the state. With the new law in place, local leaders are waiting to see just how many students are forced to sit out starting next month.
"Anytime there's change, there's always a possibility that numbers will change, but we've really been very intentional about communicating with our families so we hope that that communication and the continued communication with them will keep those numbers very, very low," said Spokane Public Schools spokesperson Brian Coddington.
The district's immunization exclusion date is set for Oct. 11. That's when, Coddington says, all immunizations and exemptions must be filed to the district office. Without proof of compliance, students will not be able to come back to class on Oct. 14 until proof of immunization is provided.
"We're really working in targeting those families that are still out there that haven't fulfilled their obligation with the paperwork," said Coddington. "So that everybody has a chance to one, know the information, two, to digest it and really ask any questions or have a conversation with us if they need to."
Health officials say the more students vaccinated, the better. It's based on a concept known as 'community immunity' and when it comes to measles, doctors say it's best if at least 90% of students are vaccinated.
"When you get up to that level, and depending on the vaccine or the disease, it varies from 90 to 95 percent, there are enough people vaccinated to protect those who can't be vaccinated from being exposed or getting ill," said Susan Sjoberg with the Spokane Regional Health District. "One case in a school environment is considered an outbreak and then there are lots and lots of kids that are impacted."
Sjoberg said Washington State is one of only eight states where vaccinations are provided to all children until their 19th birthday, free of charge. An administration fee of $24 can be charged but no out-of-pocket costs for the vaccinations. Over 80 healthcare provider practices in the Inland Northwest participate in this program.
SRHD has a vaccine clinic scheduled for Oct. 17 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Farwell Elementary.
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