Several Zionsville students were pulled from class Monday, Jan. 3, for not having their required vaccinations up to date.
Three students at Zionsville MIddle School and three students at Pleasant View Elementary were excluded for a partial day or a full day until parents were able to provide vaccination records or documentation of an appointment before Jan. 14, said Bob Bostwick, executive director of Human Resources for Zionsville Community Schools.
A new state law required Indiana students in grades sixth through 12th to have their second Varicella, the Menactra (meningitis) and Tdap (pertussis) vaccines. In addition, students entering kindergarten are now required to receive a second Varicella vaccination. The requirements went into affect on July 1, 2010.
“It’s a state law, but it’s really up to the school districts to enforce it,” said Epidemiologist Angie Cierzniewski of the Indiana State Department of Health. “There are some schools that have so many students without immunization records that if they enforced the law, they wouldn’t be able to have school — there wouldn’t enough students to attend.”
Bostwick said due to the new requirements, ZCS extended the deadline by four months to Jan. 3, in order to enforce the state immunization provision to provide parents with every opportunity to gain compliance. Exemptions are granted only for religious or medical reasons.
Bostwick said the school sent a letter to parents of students whose student health records were incomplete.
“Beginning early last spring and continuing through December, we made every attempt to avoid student exclusions through a myriad of notices and contacts informing parents of the new vaccination and records requirements as well as specific notice and contacts regarding missing or incomplete records,” Bostwick said in an e-mail. “Our intension was never to exclude students from school.”
Last fall, ZCS hosted two free vaccination clinics put on by the Boone County Health Department. This was in addition to the clinics the health department provided in Lebanon and their regular office hours when vaccinations may be obtained.
“Back then, we had more than 1,100 students not complete with records and as close as we are now, we commend outselves,” Bostwick said.
On Friday, Sept. 10, an ourbreak of 13 recorded chickenpox cases at Zionsville Community High School spurred the State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. to issue an order to exclude students who were not fully vaccinated against the disease from school on Monday, Sept. 13.
Out of the 13 cases, 11 were students and two are staff members, Boone County Health Officer Dr. Herschell Servies Jr. said in a Sept. 15 Times Sentinel story.
Also in September, state health officials said Indiana was on track for the highest number of pertussis infections since 1986, mirroring a national trend in the escalation of the highly contagious respiratory disease better known as whooping cough.
Health experts say the rise in reported cases may be due in part to better diagnostic testing.
But they also point to the number of children who may not have been vaccinated against the disease, as well as the number of teenagers and adults who’ve failed to get the booster shots designed to keep their immunity from waning.
As of mid-September, the number of whooping cough cases reported to the Indiana State Department of Health for 2010 had surpassed 390, close to the total number for 2009.
Maureen Hayden, CNHI statehouse bureau chief contributed to this story.