2016-09-09 / Community

Policy requires up-to-date shots

By Hector Gonzalez

Without any discussion on the dais, Simi Valley school board members gave preliminary approval this week to an updated student immunization policy that falls in line with the requirements of the state’s new vaccination law.

Trustees Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of the new policy, which bars students from enrolling in the Simi Valley Unified School District without presenting proof of immunization or a signed waiver from a physician exempting them from the state law.

“The superintendent of designee shall not unconditionally admit any student to a district elementary or secondary school, preschool, or child care and development program for the first time, nor after July 1, 2016, admit any student to grade 7 unless the student has been fully immunized,” the new policy reads.

Trustees will cast a final vote on the policy next month. The full wording is available on the district’s website by going to the board of education’s agenda for the Sept. 6 meeting.

The state law that took effect in July requires all students entering kindergarten or seventh grade at public or private schools to have the necessary regimen of shots.

The law no longer allows personal-belief exemptions from vaccination. However, students can still opt out for medical reasons as long as parents provide a doctor’s waiver.

State lawmakers moved to eliminate personal-belief exemptions for students after a measles outbreak in early 2015 that infected nearly 100 people in California.

Health officials traced the first measles cases to an infected, unvaccinated 11-year-old child who had visited Disneyland in late December 2014. Within a few weeks, dozens of new measles cases were reported, many of them by people who had visited the Orange County theme park.

By April 2015, public health officials declared the outbreak over, but the health emergency served to spotlight low vaccination levels at some schools  — as low as 50 percent in some cases — officials reported.

In SVUSD, immunization levels among kindergartners and seventh-graders were up overall in 2015-16, compared to the year before. But the percentage declined from 2014-15 at one school, Santa Susana Elementary, according to state public health statistics.

Last school year, 99 percent of seventh-graders in the district’s three middle schools — Hillside, Sinaloa and Valley View — were up-to-date with their immunizations. The figure at the three schools was 98 percent in 2014- 15, according to the California Department of Public Health.

At Monte Vista School, an independent learning academy that opened last year at the former Abraham Lincoln Elementary School campus on Fourth Street, 90 percent of seventh-graders were up-to-date on their shots in 2015-16.

Among kindergartners, the number of immunized students in 2015-16 ranged from 61 percent of students at Santa Susana to 100 percent at Arroyo, Park View and Crestview elementary schools. In 2014-15, 88 percent of Santa Susana’s kindergarteners were up-to-date on shots.

Most SVUSD elementary schools reported between 95 and 98 percent of kindergartners were fully vaccinated in 2015-16.

By comparison, in 2014-15 most elementary schools reported between 88 and 95 percent of kindergarten students were immunized.

Two elementary schools, Atherwood and Vista, reported 100 percent of kindergartners immunized that year.

Under the school board’s policy update, SVUSD administrators will work to boost vaccination levels throughout the district.

“To protect the health of all students and staff and to curtail the spread of infectious diseases, the governing board desires to cooperate wit h state and local health agencies to encourage immunization of all district students against preventable diseases,” the updated policy states.

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