Compliance rates for whooping cough immunization vary amongst school districts in the Bay Area, as remaining schools continue to urge unvaccinated students to get their Tdap shot, in accordance to a state law passed last year.
Though San Rafael City Schools and West Contra Costa Unified School District have now reached full compliance by turning away unvaccinated students from schools, Oakland Unified School District lags behind, with unvaccinated students still being allowed to attend school.
Oakland Unified School District’s compliance rate as of the last check was about 90 percent of its 12,000 person target demographic, district spokesperson Troy Flint said on Wednesday.
Flint said that with its deadline passed Sept. 30, the Oakland district set its goal realistically at 95 percent for last week.
“Almost with any project with marketing and recruitment … that last decibel is the hardest to complete,” Flint said. “We’re working very aggressively for what was a nine-month campaign for awareness and increased participation.”
Whereas the Berkeley Unified School District had 387 unvaccinated students at the time of its deadline — one day prior to that of Oakland’s — this number dropped significantly to 127 only a day later, due to an on-campus clinic held at the high school that forced the students to either get vaccinated or go home.
Flint said the Oakland district has increased the number of nurses traveling between the various school sites to administer the shots, with the total number at 43 as of Wednesday.
The nurses planned to continue administering shots until Friday, at which time, the district would reassess the situation and may enforce a stricter policy for students — which may include turning away unvaccinated students, Flint said. However, students without immunization were still allowed in school last week.
“We’re not turning away kids from the door,” Flint said. “The best way to ensure compliance is to have them on site and follow up with them.”
Flint said keeping these unvaccinated kids in school is not a threat to the health of their peers, because the state law uses this seventh to 12th grade demographic to achieve its broader social goal of getting kids vaccinated, but not because the state is afraid of students transmitting the disease to one another.
Marin Trujillo, spokesperson for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said it is an unusual requirement for teenagers to get a vaccination, since most shots are administered either when the student is young or later on as an adult.
The district for West Contra Costa had 87 percent of its student population immunized by its Sept. 30 deadline and quickly reached full compliance by Wednesday.
Trujillo noted that the school lost money daily from student absences, but because the safety of students is the district’s number one priority, it had to be done.
Similarly, San Rafael City Schools reached full compliance three days after its Sept. 19 deadline.
Amy Baer, executive director of student support services for the San Rafael City Schools, said the schools in the district took the vaccination law seriously over the summer and was persistent in making phone calls and working with local community clinics.
(We) worked with parents ahead of time — the deadline didn’t come and go without them knowing about it,” Baer said.
Weiru Fang covers local schools.
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