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Wichita schools getting tough on shots

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, at 6:10 a.m.

Wichita school district students who aren't up to date on their required immunizations will be excluded from school beginning Monday.

Kathy Hubka, coordinator of health services for the district, said school nurses have been notifying parents since last spring about the requirements. Since enrollment, parents whose children aren't up to date on shots should have gotten letters, phone calls and notifications at parent-teacher conferences, she said.

Even so, more than 1,000 Wichita students could be pulled out of class Monday and not allowed to return until their immunizations are up to date.

Hubka said the exclusions could have the biggest effect on seventh- and ninth-graders, whose immunization requirements underwent major changes two years ago.

The state's current immunization requirements are:

* Tdap: single Tdap required for grades seven to nine if not previously vaccinated with three-dose series.

* Polio: four doses for ages 5-6.

* Varicella (chicken pox): Kindergarten, first- and second-grade students and seventh-grade students need two doses. Students in grades three to six and eight to 11 are required to have at least one dose.

* Hepatitis B: three doses required through grade 11.

At West High School, as many as 400 students — about one-fourth of the student body — were not up to date on shots as of last week, Hubka said.

If parents received a notice but think their child has the required shots, they should contact the school nurse to be sure. Some doctors administer a different version of the Tdap vaccine, called DTaP, but either will meet the requirement, Hubka said.

"We want to make sure the kids have the shots they need when they need them," she said. "It's for the safety of all our children."

Kansas schools allow an unvaccinated child to attend school under two conditions:

* The child has an annual written statement from his or her physician saying that the child's life or health would be endangered by undergoing the inoculation.

* Or, the parent or guardian has signed a written statement that the child is an adherent of a religious denomination whose teachings are opposed to inoculations.

Students who need shots but do not have insurance or a regular health care provider will be directed to the Sedgwick County Health Department or to a safety-net clinic such as GraceMed or Hunter Health Clinic, which provide immunizations at little or no cost, Hubka said.

"Our hope is that parents will get it done as soon as possible and get the children back to school," she said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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