Thousands of children still need shots to attend school

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage School District educators and health officials are warning parents to get their children immunized if they want them to start school with their classmates Sept. 4.

More than 9,000 students still don't have the required vaccinations and will be turned away when school starts, district officials said.

They have tried to get the word out through public service announcements, newsletters, conferences and phone calls. Students are required to have started hepatitis A and B shots and must have received the mumps vaccine.

If they don't, they won't be allowed to attend school.

''We have a huge problem right now,'' said Janice Bates, the district's director of health services. ''This is going to disrupt children's lives.''

Bates said Friday the number of children without the required vaccinations had increased by about 400. At one point, the number had dipped to about 8,900. The increase is due mostly to new students, including kindergartners and those transferring in, she said.

This year's vaccinations are required by state health regulations adopted last year that took effect July 1.

Most students have received the mumps vaccination, but lack hepatitis shots, Bates said. Hepatitis vaccinations are given in series and have to be administered over time. Hepatitis A requires two shots, and hepatitis B requires three. Hepatitis A and B are liver diseases.

The School District is requiring students to start the series by the first day of school, Bates said. The rest of the series can be completed while the student attends class.

School begins Monday for children in Fairbanks.

Officials there say record numbers of children have dropped by the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center this week to get shots.

The busiest day was Thursday, when 432 children received vaccines, said Jean Becker, regional nurse manager at the health center. Over 1,000 children received vaccines this week, with the health center increasing staff and extending hours to meet the demand.

''It's such a unique situation, with the new school regulations,'' Becker said.

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