Up-to-date student immunizations ensures future in-person instruction stays safe

By Jacob Lagmay
February 19 is the deadline where the Oregon Health Authority requires student’s parents to provide up-to-date immunization records. If a student does not have their immunization records on time, they won’t be allowed to attend in-person or virtual classes.

Sukhjot Sal, News Contributor

Grade students of Corvallis School District must provide up-to-date immunization records or exemption to their school or child care prior to Oregon Health Authority’s Exclusion Day in mid Feb., or they will be excluded from in-person activities and online programs.

This year, the deadline to provide these papers is Feb. 17. Exclusion Day is part of Oregon’s law to help make sure all children have the opportunity to be brought up-to-date on their vaccines at least once a year, so they can be protected from diseases like measles and whooping cough, according to Stacy de Assis Matthews, the school immunization coordinator at the OHA.

“For children in daycare and students participating in in-person instruction or activities like sports, exclusion day will be like all years—the child will not be able to come to daycare, class or activities starting Feb. 17 until their records are updated,” Matthews said.

For students in comprehensive distance learning, schools have two options for enforcing the immunization deadline, Matthews said. Either schools will prohibit a student’s return to in-person class and activities, or block online attendance.

Letters for children who are missing immunizations will be mailed to families by Feb. 3.

Communications Coordinator for the Corvallis School District, Brenda Downum, explained how the Corvallis School District plans to enforce the immunization exclusion.

“On Feb. 17, students who have received an exclusion order and not submitted the information to their school administration will be excluded from access to online programs and participation in in-person activities until the information has been received,” Downum said. “Our students who are remote-only will still be able to learn asynchronously as we will not prevent that access. Students who attend Limited In-Person must be excluded as if it is a regular school day, but they also can access programs and learn asynchronously.”

Kelly Locey, Benton County Health Department communications coordinator, said students can be cleared to return to school either by updating their vaccination records or by providing a valid exception.

Locey said there is no information regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements for children and school-aged populations.

“Currently there are only 2 available vaccines: Pfizer licensed for those 16 years and over, Moderna licensed for those 18 years and over,” Locey said.

Matthews said parents can contact their child’s health care provider, local health department or call 211 to find out where their child can get vaccines, especially if some parents have questions about if it is safe to take their child to a clinic when COVID-19 is in the community.

“Many health care providers have made changes to make sure their clinics are safe for families and children,” Matthews said. “Contact your clinic if you have questions about what steps they are taking to protect your family’s health.”

Downum explained each school submits a report in January to Benton County Health Department with a list of students who are not complete on immunizations. That has already been done for this year, she said.

“Benton County Health sends a registered letter to each family on that list letting them know they cannot attend school as of the exclusion date if they do not provide an exemption form or proof of immunization directly to the school,” Downum said. “Schools have been working hard to reach out to all families by phone and mail for months, so the registered letter should not be a surprise to a family.”

Downum said the school district chose to include Corvallis students who were studying online in the immunization report as well. Then if students chose to return to the hybrid setting later on, this would ensure they were vaccinated.

“We know that most schools plan to open to some in-person instruction if it is safe later this winter or spring, and we want to be ready when this happens,” Matthews said. “This includes making sure students’ immunizations are up to date.”

OHA has information on important due dates regarding school and child care immunization, and answers to a list of frequently asked questions.

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