Education

Scores of students without vaccine proof sent home on first day of school

Clinic offers free back-to-school shots

A new law effective July 2016 requires all California children to be fully vaccinated before entering public and private schools. A free immunization clinic at WellSpace Health in Oak Park hopes to reach as many kids as possible.
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A new law effective July 2016 requires all California children to be fully vaccinated before entering public and private schools. A free immunization clinic at WellSpace Health in Oak Park hopes to reach as many kids as possible.

Scores of Sacramento area students were sent home from school this week after they showed up for kindergarten and seventh grade without proof of vaccination.

In the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, 145 students out of about 3,200 starting kindergarten and seventh grade were sent home Tuesday on the first day of school for lack of immunization records, according to spokesman Daniel Thigpen.

A new state law that took effect July 1 eliminated personal- and religious-belief exemptions for families that opted to avoid vaccinations for their children. Under the new law, students entering the two checkpoint years of kindergarten and seventh grade are now required to show proof of vaccination. The requirement also applies to students who transfer into a district.

Thigpen said the Folsom Cordova district was hoping that many of the students sent home on Tuesday – 72 children from kindergarten and 73 from seventh grade – had received shots at vaccination clinics and returned to class this week. As of Friday, 98 students remained out of class – 37 in kindergarten and 61 in seventh grade.

In the Elk Grove Unified School District, classes started throughout the week. Spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton said the district identified 23 kindergartners and 110 seventh-graders who lacked proof of immunization that is required to attend school. The district has close to 10,000 students in the two grade levels.

In the Natomas Unified School District, no one was sent home from school on the first day of class. Spokesman Jim Sanders said the district spent hundreds of hours during the summer to alert parents about the need for vaccinations and held vaccination clinics.

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By the start of school, the district had identified 157 students who were unvaccinated out of 1,462 kindergarteners and seventh-graders, he said. On that day, 103 unvaccinated students arrived at school, Sanders said. He said their parents either returned that day with the proper paperwork or took their children to one of the district’s two clinics – a stationary clinic at Natomas High School or a mobile clinic at a middle school.

Since then, Sanders said, the district has been working to reach the 54 students to see if they need help. Some turned out to have transferred to other districts.

Immunizations have been required in California schools since 1962, starting with the polio vaccine, according to the California Department of Public Health. School districts were first required to track student immunizations in 1978.

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Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a bill by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, making California the third state in the nation that eliminated religious and personal belief exemptions for vaccination requirements. Opponents said that the law violated parental rights and deprived their children of their constitutional right to an education.

A measles outbreak tied to a case at Disneyland in 2015 spurred lawmakers to impose the stricter requirements.

Folsom Cordova has been working with WellSpace Health to help affected families, Thigpen said. The WellSpace center at 10423 Old Placerville Road in Sacramento will provide vaccinations to students on Aug. 19 and 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parents or guardians need to bring their personal identification, any student immunization records and an insurance card if one is available. The center can be reached at 916-569-8600.

Terri Fox, head nurse at Sacramento City Unified, discusses on Feb. 5, 2016 how the district will provide services to unvaccinated special education students. A fiercely contested state law eliminates personal belief exemptions for parents who opp

The Democratic state senator from Sacramento on June 26, 2015 recounted why he introduced Senate Bill 277, a hugely controversial bill requiring vaccinations for California school children.

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