Public health officials are reminding families that children must have their vaccinations or show proof of a non-medical exemption by Feb. 21 to avoid being excluded from school.
State law requires that all children in schools, preschools and child care facilities have current records of immunization. It’s the most effective way to protect children from preventable diseases such as whooping cough, mumps and measles.
Health Departments across the state will send out letters Feb. 7 to families with children whose vaccination records are incomplete.
“Anything this important, that has to get done, comes with a deadline,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “It’s called school exclusion, but the goal is to get kids up-to-date and keep them in school. In talking to parents who embrace vaccination, I’ve learned that we share the belief that schools should be safe. This is one way we keep them safe.”
Multnomah County is hosting three vaccination clinics in February, as school exclusion day approaches. An administrative fee of $21.96 per injection is requested, but no child will be denied due to inability to pay. The clinics will also offer free lead testing for children ages 6 and under.
The County offers immunizations throughout the year, at the downtown Community Immunization Clinic. And children ages 5 to 18 can get vaccinations and primary care for no out-of-pocket cost at any of Multnomah County’s 12 Student Health Centers, which are located in schools.
Families with health insurance are encouraged to seek vaccinations from their regular medical providers.
About 124,000 children in Multnomah County must meet school immunization requirements this year. An estimated five percent of them will receive school exclusion orders based on incomplete immunization records, county analysts say.
Of all school-aged children in the county, analysts anticipate fewer than 1,000 will obtain a medical exemption, and fewer than 2,000 will seek a non-medical exemption. Parents who don’t want their children immunized can obtain a non-medical exemption after learning about the risks, benefits and myths of vaccinations either by watching an online video or talking to their child’s doctor.
Research shows that areas with higher concentrations of nonmedical exemptions report higher rates of preventable disease outbreaks. But some parents hesitate to have their children vaccinated because of the number of required immunizations, while others may believe vaccine-preventable diseases no longer pose a serious risk.
“I’m a parent and I made sure my kid had every vaccine on schedule,” Vines said. “Because in my job I know these diseases are alive and well in the world. I feel good knowing my kid is fully protected.”
February 10: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Multnomah Dental Society’s Children’s Health Fair (map)
February 17: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., David Douglas Administration Building (map)
February 21: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., East County Building, Gresham (map)
Resources and research
Community Immunization Clinic: Multnomah County’s downtown clinic offers many low-cost vaccinations.
Student Health Centers: These 12 primary care clinics are based in schools, where any child ages 5 to 18 can get care at no out-of-pocket cost.