The start of the school year is nearly here and children are getting ready to head back into the classrooms, but first they have to undergo one of their least favorite activities: getting their vaccinations. However, some parents aren’t comfortable with the idea of immunizations and choose not to have their child vaccinated while other children are unable to get the shots for medical reasons. The state requires certain vaccinations before kids can go to school but allows for these exemptions.
When an outbreak occurs in a school, however, it can be very dangerous for unvaccinated children, and Starke County Health Nurse Frank Lynch explained that there are protocols in place for these types of events.
“Anytime we run across any unvaccinated children – be it for medical reasons or be it for religious reasons – what ends up happening is, you have an outbreak in the school, any of the kids that aren’t vaccinated, they have to be taken out of the school. They have to be gotten away from whatever disease process is going on in the school at the time,” Lynch explained.
Lynch said when an outbreak is confirmed, any children who aren’t vaccinated are told not to come back to school until the disease has been dealt with. He said children can be kept out of the classroom for anywhere from 10 to 21 days from the last known case, and if the disease is hopping from student to student, that time period can get pretty lengthy.
The health department goes through everyone the children or teachers have come into contact with to ensure the disease is stopped before any unvaccinated children can enter the school.
“While we’re doing that, and waiting for, say, a seven- to ten-day period for signs or symptoms to appear, the child that hasn’t had their vaccinations, that child is not in school. That child may be able to get their homework brought home to them, what have you, but they are not able to participate in school because they have not been vaccinated,” Lynch said.
Right now, Lynch said pertussis – or whooping cough – is on the rise, and any children who have not been vaccinated for the disease should be on high alert and take extra precautions to stay healthy.