No School for Unvaccinated California Students
Nov 11, 2011
Begun in the 1800s to prevent smallpox, vaccinations in U.S. schools have long been a requirement for children to enter public school. All 50 states have immunization requirements and laws vary from state to state, though nearly all require shots for certain conditions including measles, mumps and pertussis or whooping cough. Students in California recently found out just how seriously schools respond when these vaccinations have not been administered.
For Some Schools: No Shot, No Chance
The San Francisco Unified School District began turning away students not yet vaccinated against whooping cough on Thursday, September 15th. About 2,000 students were not vaccinated despite a 30-day extension imposed during the summer. Unvaccinated students in Sacramento's Natomas Unified School District were gathered in the gymnasium, where in one high school nurses were giving shots to those in a line that 'curled around the gym' according to the Huffington Post.
There's good reason for the tough stance: in 2010, California saw its worst whooping cough epidemic since 1959 (16.1 per 100,000 rate of illness then as compared to 14.5 per 100,000 in '10). State officials were so worried about a repeat of the previous year that they passed a law requiring that all students in grades 7-12 be vaccinated against the disease, which is potentially fatal. There were ten fatalities in the state last year, all infants too young for the vaccination.
California State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who co-wrote the new law, spoke out for compliance. 'This is not an academic or philosophical discussion,' he told the Huffington Post. 'Children have died as a result of this.' He added that 'school districts need to take seriously the obligations to comply with (the new law).'
Despite this, some districts did not react as strongly as San Francisco and allowed students to attend school. 'We will not withhold education from our students,' Debbie Bettencourt, superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, told Time Magazine on September 16, 2011. One could speculate that schools might be making that choice since funding in California is based on student attendance. Whatever the reasons, state officials stressed that schools allowing any student who had not received the vaccine on school property were breaking the law.
California law does permit students who have not been vaccinated to attend school if parents submit a form stating that they oppose the practice, allowing for a parental personal belief exemption. No district reported having less than half of students unvaccinated, with others reporting nearly 100% compliance.
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