Students who are not properly vaccinated will not be allowed back to school following Christmas break, says an announcement from Seattle Public Schools. Students that are not in compliance with Washington state’s vaccination laws will be declared absent until the school nurse is provided with all the necessary information. The missed days will be written down as “unexcused absences,” but can be changed to “excused” after immunization is completed and the student is back at school.
In a notice posted on its website, the district said, “Student records must reflect updated immunization status by January 8, 2020, or students cannot attend school until the required information is provided to the school nurse. Families of students whose records are not up to date or are missing information will be notified via email, postal mail, and a letter home from your child’s school.” The district will hold a series of free vaccination clinics to help families become compliant.
Washington state’s MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine requirements were amended last May to end exemptions on the basis of a family’s religious or philosophical beliefs. Now, to attend school in Washington, children must be fully vaccinated, must be in the process of having their immunizations completed, or have a signed Certificate of Exemption. The bill, which came into force on July 28, affected public and private schools as well as day-care facilities.
School districts in Washington could have started excluding non-compliant students 30 days after the beginning of school in the fall. Some districts delayed the exclusion in the absence of enforcement mechanisms. The Issaquah district began to send out warning letters in early October, while the Tacoma School District began excluding unvaccinated students around the same time.
Washington is among a number of states to introduce tougher vaccine laws in the wake of a wave of measles outbreaks. America has seen the highest number of measles cases reported since 1992, with 1,276 cases of measles confirmed across 31 states between January 1 and December 5, 2019. That was more than triple the 375 cases reported in 2018.