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South Kitsap School District offering free immunizations at Back to School Celebration

Washington state law requires students to be immunized before they enter school.

If only it were that simple.

South Kitsap School District nurse Susan Anderson, who oversees East Port Orchard, Mullennix Ridge and Olalla Elementary schools, estimated that 150 among the approximately 1,500 students on her campuses are not compliant with immunizations.

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

Anderson helped spearhead a program in 2008 that offers free immunizations to anyone from birth to 18 years old. Through Kitsap County Health District, it runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday during the Back to School Celebration at South Kitsap High School’s track.

According to SKSD community education specialist Suzie Butler, the district also will give out approximately 850 backpacks filled with school supplies, as well as items ranging from food to haircuts. She said all of it has been donated by individuals and businesses.

Last year, Anderson said, Kitsap County Health District provided more than 400 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 Kitsap County Health District 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.

But, she said, “there hasn’t been a whole lot of research to support that.”

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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