Preparing for the first day of school is an exciting time.
This year we encourage you to add, “Get to know new state immunization rules” to your list of things to do this month.
A state public health law passed this year sets new immunization requirements for children enrolling in preschool or Head Start, kindergarten, seventh grade, or who are new to a school district. Parents of children in these categories must provide proof of immunization or obtain a waiver from the health department before the first day of school.
With the new law, the role of local school districts has changed. School districts are no longer permitted to provide immunization waivers to parents with philosophical objections to immunizations. Local public health departments are the only entity with this authority. By state law, the health department must provide a science-based educational session to parents before providing a waiver. Parents seeking information about a waiver can visit the health department’s waiver webpage or call (734) 544-6700.
AAPS’ school nurses are on the front line of preventing disease and promoting health for students. Nancy Polmear-Swendris MS, BSN, RN, has been a school nurse for AAPS for 10 years. She says that being educated about immunizations and communicable disease is key.
“An unforeseen consequence of successful vaccinations has been that most people lack firsthand experience with serious communicable diseases,” she notes.
Nurse Polmear-Swendris says that there’s one vaccine-preventable disease that has made a comeback over the past few years: pertussis, or whooping cough.
“In 2013, there were 199 cases,” in Washtenaw County, she said.
Children ages 10-19 made up 35% of those cases, and some were AAPS students.
“With continued efforts to vaccinate county residents, the number of cases decreased to 110 in 2014,” said Polmear-Swendris.
A list of local resources for immunizations is available here.
Ann Arbor Public Schools aims to provide a healthy school environment for all children. Parents are encouraged to get to know the new state immunization rules, especially if their child is entering preschool, Kindergarten, 7th grade, or is new to the district.
Parents with questions about vaccinating should contact their school nurse or call Washtenaw County Public Health at (734) 544-6700.