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Immunization at OMS

Exclusion day blues By Kim Nowacki Argus Observer ONTARIO -- Wednesday was the exclusion day for seventh- and eighth-grade students in Oregon to have up-to-date immunizations as required by the state. Despite the efforts of the Ontario Middle School staff and Ontario School District nurse Sue Thomas, more than 120 students were told not to go to class Wednesday. "I don't know how much money we spent on mailers," Thomas said. By 8 a.m. OMS staff was busy calling parents to come and pick up their children. Around noon, less than 10 students sat quietly studying in the OMS Commons waiting for their parents to be notified.

Oregon law requires seventh- and eighth-grade students to have their second measles, mumps and rubella immunization, a series of three Hepatitis B shots and the chickenpox vaccination if the student has not already had the disease. Students who have not fulfilled these requirements will not be allowed back to class until they bring a copy of their immunization record for the school to keep on file.

For some students, like Gabriela Cota, 14, obtaining a copy of her record was all it took. Cota joined the swarm of other OMS students filling the small waiting room at the Malheur County Health Department, but left with a piece of paper instead of a sore arm. Others were not so lucky. "It's been crazy here, where do I start," Connie Chaney, health department immunization coordinator, said. "The line was out the door this morning." Stephanie Carbajal, 13, and her mother, Sylvia, arrived at the health department Wednesday morning but opted to try again in the afternoon, once the initial rush had died down. Carbajal received her second shot in the Hepatitis B series but will have to go back in two months to receive the final shot.

Students who are completing the Hepatitis B series, which requires a waiting period between shots, will be allowed to return to school, Judy Alvarado, OMS secretary, said. "That's what happened to a lot of these kids, they got their first shot last year and never followed up," Alvarado said. This year's number of OMS students turned away from school is up from last year. OMS principal, LaVelle Corwell, said that this is probably because this is the first year Oregon has required both seventh- and eighth-grade students to have the vaccinations.

Ontario was not alone in the number of students without up-to-date records. The Malheur County Health Department sent 130 immunization exclusion warning letters to Nyssa Middle School students and 55 to Vale Middle School students, Chaney said. The school exclusions are a result of state legislation passed in 1980, for the purpose of protecting children and promoting public health.