Free immunizations offered for South Kitsap students

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that Washington state had the highest percentage of kindergartners opting out of some or all immunizations in 2009-10.

But South Kitsap School District nurse Susan Anderson, who oversees East Port Orchard, Mullennix Ridge and Olalla Elementary schools, said it has been a problem locally much longer than that.

While she said the number fluctuates, she said that 150 among the approximately 1,500 students on her campuses are not compliant with immunizations some years.

“It’s a major problem every year,” Anderson said.

In an effort to eradicate that issue, Anderson helped spearhead a program in 2008 that offers free immunizations to anyone from birth to 18 years old. Through Harrison Medical Center, it runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 20 during the Back to School Celebration at South Kitsap High School’s track.

According to SKSD executive assistant Patti Anderson, the district also will give out approximately 300 backpacks through a free raffle, as well as items ranging from food to haircuts. She said all of it has been donated by individuals and businesses. She said donations are accepted through Aug. 20 and contact (360) 876-7000 for more information.

Last year, Susan Anderson said, Kitsap County Health District provided more than 375 immunizations, and supply is sufficient to vaccinate as many children as necessary this year.

This is the only time where the district has free immunizations available, but Anderson said parents can schedule an appointment with their physician or Mary Bridge Children Express in Gig Harbor if they cannot attend the Back to School Celebration.

Anderson recommends that parents keep records of immunizations because “every child has a different requirement.” But she added that it would not be harmful to a child if they inadvertently received shots again. That occasionally happens in SKSD, Anderson said, when children in military families come from overseas as those records often are received late.

Children can be exempted from vaccinations through a doctor’s signature. Anderson said there is a high rate of exemptions in Washington with some resulting from religious affiliation and others because of a purported link to autism.

“They’ve studied that over and over again and have not found any conclusive evidence,” she said.

Previously, parents could sign a note to have their children exempted from some or all immunizations and enroll in school. But that changed when state legislators passed a bill, which took effect July 22, that requires a doctor’s signature.

“Most of today’s parents weren’t around to see how bad diseases like measles and whooping cough were before vaccines helped bring them under control,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a June news release. “We’ve done a good job fending off those diseases with vaccines, but we can’t be complacent; we’re seeing them start to make a comeback and too many of our kids are vulnerable.”

Anderson said that exempted children also run the risk of missing school because they must be held out if there is an outbreak of one of the illnesses, such as measles, mumps and rubella.

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