By Jenna Chandler and Lauren M. Whaley, The Orange County Register (TNS)
The mother of a California child who exposed 20 infants to measles last year never intended for her baby to go unvaccinated.
“That baby was not in a family that was against vaccinations. The mom … had four children, and was juggling so much, it had simply slipped her mind,” said Southern California pediatrician Jan Johnson.
In the past year, as a measles outbreak has stricken dozens and a whooping cough epidemic has killed two infants and sickened more than 10,000 people, public attention has focused on parents who refuse to immunize their children, often obtaining personal belief or religious waivers to permanently skirt vaccination laws.
Just under 10 percent of elementary school students in California enroll in school without having all of their vaccines. But it may have more to do with caution and time, than ideology.
Many parents are wary of vaccines, even if they understand the necessity. They get an initial round of vaccines, but then purposely delay some of the required follow-up shots designed to fully protect against diseases. Other parents don’t follow through because they lack access to health care; still others are so busy that they either forget or don’t have time to get the required booster shots.
Those children, who may have as few as one dose of each required vaccination, are allowed to enroll in school. But this partial, or conditional, vaccination is supposed to be temporary.
In California, schools are required to follow up with families and eventually exclude students from classes if they fail to get the all of their vaccines by the time they are due.
Unless there’s an outbreak of a disease, however, those students who don’t follow through are rarely, if ever, kicked out. The problem is, officials often don’t know who has followed through.
“The law says schools need to review (immunization) records every 30 days. It does happen, but I’m sure it’s not as often as legally it should,” said Pamela Kahn, a registered nurse overseeing health and wellness for the Orange County Department of Education.
“When our health care staff is out there caring for chronically ill, our acutely ill children, our special education students, this follow-through often does not rise to the priority level that it probably should,” she said. “It’s probably not realistic (given) how schools are staffed right now.”
Photo: Jessica Lucia via Flickr