Schools bar 1,000 kids without vaccinations

After two mailed letters, two calls from the principal and four letters sent home with students warning of Monday's impending vaccination deadline, Hadley Middle School nurse Sandra Elliott said she had to turn away 88 students this week for not meeting immunization requirements.

More than 1,000 students in the Wichita district — a bulk of them in middle school — weren't allowed to attend school and instead stood in long health clinic lines because they didn't have additional vaccinations, said Kathy Hubka, health services coordinator.

The state now requires a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine) booster, chicken pox vaccine and Hepatitis B vaccine in students up to ninth grade. Before, only students through fifth grade needed those three vaccines, so many seventh- and eighth-graders are required to receive the shots for the first time this year.

Hubka said the district started alerting parents to the new law almost a year ago, and the district pushed the deadline until Monday, the first day back from holiday break, to give families as much time as possible.

"We want to work with parents, but sometimes we have no recourse but to exclude" students from school, Hubka said.

And it seems to be getting parents' attention as hundreds of students flocked to clinics for vaccinations, nurses said.

Elliott said she heard of students waiting three hours this week to get shots at the Sedgwick County Health Department.

Once there is documentation of the vaccinations, students can return to school, but their absences are unexcused.

About half of the students out of school because of vaccination requirements had returned to Hadley by Wednesday, Elliott said.

"I never had to exclude anyone before," she said, adding that vaccinations are something dealt with primarily at the elementary school level.

Much of the confusion for parents involves the chicken pox vaccine, Elliott said. All students through eighth grade need the shot, unless there is documentation signed by a physician that the child has had chicken pox.

Having the $15 to pay for a vaccine has been a problem for a few families, but Elliott said the school can help parents find resources.

"One boy, the teachers paid for him," she said.

Students can receive vaccines at their private doctors or at the Sedgwick County Health Department's community health clinics, which offer reduced-cost services for families with low incomes.

If parents have any questions, Hubka said they should call their child's school and talk to the nurse.

For more information on clinics, parents can call 211 or visit www.sedgwickcounty.org/healthdept.