As concerns continue nationwide for a resurgence of measles, 7 percent of Oklahoma students are reported to be unvaccinated, but most Pottawatomie County kindergarteners are up-to-date on vaccinations, state health officials report.
Laws involving immunizations vary from state to state, however, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, “all children two months of age and older must present an immunization record or file for an exemption” before their child can attend school or other forms of childcare.
In Pottawatomie County, school districts require parents to have their children's immunizations records to enroll or file some sort of exemption.
According to Shawnee Public Schools Public Information Officer Cherity Pennington, the district's policy reflects the state law.
"We follow the state law in that we cannot accept any student unless that student is in compliance with the state law in regard to vaccinations," Pennington said.
According to Leslie Vick, with the Pottawatomie County Health Department, there are numerous vaccinations students must receive and they vary depending on age.
"Vaccinations protect kids from 15 serious diseases and we haven't seen these diseases in a while, but there's still a risk...if there's an outbreak...or they travel international to countries where these diseases haven't been eradicated," Vick said.
Vick explained childcare and preschool children are typically up to date on their state required vaccinations.
In fact, data taken from State Department of Health surveys show that in Pottawatomie County, 93.6 percent of kindergarteners were up-to-date on their vaccinations and 95.22 percent of kindergarteners at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center were up-to-date.
Vick explained while the state and schools require the proper immunizations, parents can file for exemption and not vaccinate their children.
In fact, according to the same State Health Department survey regarding vaccinated kindergarteners, 2.6 percent of students were exempt at Shawnee Early Childhood Center, 3.6 percent were exempt at Tecumseh Early Childhood Center, 2.5 percent were exempt at Bethel Elementary School and 2.2 percent were exempt at McLoud's Early Childhood Center and Elementary Schools. Other districts in the county had similar numbers or zero exemptions.
Vick said it's common for parents to exempt their students because of medical reasons, religion or other personal beliefs.
To be exempt, parents must fill out a Certificate of Exemption, Vick said, and if it's for medical reasons they will need a physician's signature. For religious reasons, she said parents need a religions leader's signature. To sign it themselves and for personal objections, Vick said they need to explain why and sign the form.
Though parents can opt children out of immunizations, on the form they have to acknowledge that their children will be excluded from school if there is an outbreak, Vick said.
Vick explained vaccinations are meant to prevent illness and keep people from contracting a fatal disease and spreading it to others.
"We vaccinate to keep ourselves and our children safe, but also to keep the community safe," Vick said.
According to the State Department of Health, those of childcare age need several immunizations including: four DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), one to four PCV (pneumococcal), one to four Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B), one MMR (measles, mumps rubella), one Varicella (chickenpox), three IPV (polio), two Hep A (hepatitis A), three Hep B (hepatitis B) and it's recommend they get a flu shot.
Preschool-aged students must get four DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), one MMR (measles, mumps rubella), one Varicella (chickenpox), three IPV (polio), two Hep A (hepatitis A), three Hep B (hepatitis B) and it's recommended they also get a flu shot and their second varicella at four years old and Polio on or after their fourth birthday.
For kindergarten to sixth grade, the Health Department requires five DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), two MMR (measles, mumps rubella), one Varicella (chickenpox), four IPV (polio), two Hep A (hepatitis A), three Hep B (hepatitis B) and recommend getting a flu shot.
Lastly, for seventh through 12th grades, the Health Department requires one Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), five DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), two MMR (measles, mumps rubella), one Varicella (chickenpox), four IPV (polio), two Hep A (hepatitis A), three Hep B (hepatitis B) and also recommend getting a flu shot, two to three HPV (human papillomavirus), one to two MCV4 (meningococcal ACWY) and two to three Men B (meningococcal serotype B).
Vick said the State Health Department tries to inform as many people as they can on the benefits and importance of immunizations.
"We educate parents as best we can on the science and safety of vaccinations...," Vick said."I would say to talk to your doctor about the science and facts behind immunizations...or talk to us. We have great resources and information."
For more information on immunizations and exemptions, visit ok.gov/health/.