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ADHS data: Many kindergartners enrolled without measles vaccines didn’t have exemption forms

Doctor holds syringe with vaccine

Arizona Department of Health Services data shows that about three in every 10 kindergartners who enrolled during the most recent school year without measles vaccines didn’t have exemption forms.

According to the data, hundreds of Arizona schools did not require all parents to turn in signed waivers when they enrolled their unvaccinated children in 2015, The Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/1ZLbHrI). The newspaper analyzed schools with kindergartens with 20 or more students. The numbers were similar to an analysis a year and a half ago.

State law requires schools to suspend students who are not vaccinated and do not have exemptions. When parents choose to opt-out of immunizations, they are required to sign a waiver denoting that they understand the risks. Schools use the exemption papers to track unvaccinated students so they can be sent home if another student contracts measles.

Department of Health Services official Jessica Rigler said the state began sending letters to schools that included their exemption-form compliance rates this year, but that the immunization law does not have enforcement measures. Schools are told to suspend non-compliant students, but the state has no system to penalize schools.

In the last school year, 37 percent of kindergartens had low enough vaccination rates to be breeding grounds for a measles outbreak. The state data also shows that for the past five years, schools have seen a steady 5 percent to 6 percent of kindergartners show up to school without vaccines.

Vaccine exemption data may be incomplete because schools send reports by November. Students missing vaccines or exemption forms may have turned them in after the deadline. Some schools also don’t report accurate information. 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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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