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Hundreds of students excluded from class get last-minute vaccine – Bakersfield.com

Hundreds of students excluded from class get last-minute vaccine BY KELLIE SCHMITT AND JORGE BARRIENTOS Californian staff writers , | Wednesday, Sep 21 2011 06:39 PM Last Updated Wednesday, Sep 21 2011 06:51 PM Dozens of parents and children lined up outside a clinic at the Kern County Department of Public Health Wednesday morning, finally getting the whooping cough shot on the day many local school districts kept non-vaccinated students from attending classes. Some of the more than 200 people who waited in the hour-long line for a Tdap shot, a booster shot that includes tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough, offered myriad reasons for why they waited. Their excuses ranged from being too busy to not knowing about the mandatory vaccine, despite district officials saying they called parents multiple times and sent home letters. "They all had different excuses, and there wasn't one common theme," said Ann Walker, public health's immunization coordinator. "I said to some of them, 'The school has been calling several times a day,' and they just looked at me blankly." Ultimately, forcing students out of school was the message that got through to many parents, many of whom said they had to take off work to deal with the vaccination Wednesday. Gino Lopez was scheduled to work in the oil fields Wednesday, but his brother called early in the morning and explained that his son Dustin, a Highland High School tenth grader, couldn't attend school without the vaccine. "I was like, 'Oh God, I have to take him here,'" Lopez said. "The school district didn't call and tell me nothing." Others acknowledged that they heard the message, but life circumstances kept them from taking their child. "The school called like every 24 seconds," said Daniel Russell, a ninth grader at Bakersfield High School. But his mother, Judy Bishop, said she didn't have transportation. When Russell was excluded from school, his father took off work to drop them off. Michael Parrish Jr. didn't get the vaccination since his father was navigating custody and insurance issues, he said. Despite the hassle of waiting in line Wednesday, dad Michael Parrish said the vaccine was important. "I feel bad for the babies that have it," he said. "I wouldn't want my kids to have it." For some parents, it just came down to being too busy. Heather Danley, the mom of Joshua Joyner, said she knew the deadline was fast approaching. But, as a Bakersfield College student herself, it was tough to find the time to take Joyner, a junior at Highland High School. Walker, at Public Health, said she did not have final Kern County numbers Wednesday, but several school districts said they had to exclude dozens of students. At Bakersfield High School Wednesday morning, about 60 students turned in forms, but 120 others still hadn't submitted proof. That was after newsletters were sent home, several phone calls were made to parents, and individual students were called in to remind them. "I can't explain it," Principal David Reese said of some students and parents still not providing proof. "It doesn't really make sense." At South High, 35 students without proof did not show up for class. Administers assumed they were at free clinics taking care of the mandated shot. As of late Wednesday, about 98 percent of students in the Kern High School District had provided proof of immunization, meaning 736 had not. Those students were gathered in offices where students either provided proof, or were sent home with parents. Bakersfield City School District campus officials were also prepared to send students home if they didn't show proof by Wednesday. By the end of the day, more than 100 students had not shown proof after repeated personal phone calls home and daily reminders to students during school. School officials said they've heard from some parents and students about fear of adverse reactions to the shot and not having time off from work to take kids to get vaccinated. No one wins with students being sent home for not being immunized, said John Teves, KHSD spokesman. Students aren't protected from the disease, and school districts lose federal money they receive for having students attend class each day. KHSD estimated it lost $34 per student, per day. And students lose valuable instructional time, he said. "Catching up is twice as hard," Teves said. "It's a big deal." That's exactly what Anthony Martinez, a senior at Vista High School, planned to do after he got his vaccination Wednesday morning. He said he was going to spend the rest of the day catching up on schoolwork and homework before he returns to class. Unlike many of the people interviewed Wednesday, Martinez admitted that his reason for delaying the shot was as simple as procrastination: "I have a problem of doing everything at the last minute." close

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