Wednesday morning, students in Seattle are heading back to class and some are facing an important deadline: If their immunization records aren’t up to date or they don’t have an exemption, they won’t be allowed in class.
Seattle Public Schools spokesman Tim Robinson said those students will be placed in a separate room until a family member comes and picks them up.
The district said it has processed more than 6,000 updated immunization records since this summer. The district hosted free vaccination clinics for students over the past several months, trying to boost those numbers, and as of Wednesday morning, nearly 1,000 students have records that need to be updated.
Over Christmas break, the district warned thousands of students that they needed to get in compliance with Washington’s vaccine laws.
The district sent letters home to families warning that students must get in compliance by January 8.
A notice on the district website says, “Student records must reflect updated immunization status by January 8, 2020, or students cannot attend school until the required information is provided to the school nurse.”
“We got a letter saying you’ve got to get these vaccinations,” said Grant Rhys-Jones, a Seattle parent. “We got it all done, luckily we could get into the doctor.”
Some students out of compliance are missing the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.
Washington state lawmakers voted to get rid of the “personal” or “philosophical” exemption for only the MMR vaccine after two measles outbreaks sickened 87 people and sent the state into a state of emergency. The change does not change religious and medical exemption laws, or personal and philosophical exemptions for vaccines other than MMR.
According to state law, school districts were supposed to start excluding students out of compliance 30 days after school started this fall.
A KIRO7 investigation from October found that schools and districts varied widely when it comes to following that law because there is no one to enforce it.
In fact, the state's manual says, "Administrators in these facilities have final responsibility when it comes to immunization compliance."
For example, in October, the Tacoma School District had started excluding kids, while Issaquah was starting to send out warning letters.
Now Seattle is also getting on board and will also start excluding students who don't meet immunization requirements.
Parents say they're glad to hear the district is taking the law seriously
“I think they did the right thing,” said Lucia Mondella, another parent.
“Absolutely. We're all in this together. If some people aren’t' pulling their weight, it's not good for the majority,” Rhys-Jones said.
If you missed the earlier clinics and want to get your child vaccinated, there is a free one happening in Federal Way next week.
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