Do You Know Your Child’s School’s Vaccination Rates? We Sure Do.
Guest post by Elizabeth Brown
When my son started public school, he had recently been diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. His body could not produce cortisol, which negatively affects different systems in the body—especially the immune system. What is an innocuous cold for an otherwise healthy person could easily become life threatening for him.
Naturally, we were concerned about maintaining his health in a public school setting. We toured several schools and asked countless questions about school nurses and school immunization rates. Several schools did not know their immunization rates or that the information was even being collected. Needless to say, we were very concerned. We knew we had to find a school that not only had high immunization rates, but also an administration that would take our son’s illness and the importance of keeping him healthy as seriously as we do.
My child is one of many who relies on herd immunity in his community. Herd immunity protects children who are too young to get vaccinated, the elderly who are more susceptible to disease, pregnant women, and—like our son—those who are immunocompromised. When children spend the majority of their day time hours in schools or daycares, a low vaccination rate within a facility means a high risk of an outbreak of disease spreading. Vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective, but if the community immunity level drops below a certain percentage, everyone becomes more susceptible to disease. In short, it takes a village to protect our most vulnerable members of society. When these individuals are exposed to vaccine preventable diseases, they can cause serious, life long and debilitating consequences, including death.
Do you know how protected your child(ren)’s school is? Finding a school with a high vaccination rate was our top priority, and thanks to Colorado legislation, we had access to this information. As parents, you and I have the right to request the overall immunization and exemption rate for any school or licensed daycare facility. There are a couple different ways for concerned parents to get this information: speaking directly to a school administrator or accessing a searchable database online. The state health department database allows you to find your school or daycare’s immunization rate and compare it to others’.
Colorado Parents for Vaccinated Communities (CPVC) is an awesome resource for concerned Colorado parents. They provide many resources for parents, including an online chart that lists the immunization rates necessary to quell disease and protect the community from outbreaks.
If you find that your school or daycare facility has vaccination rates below safe levels, Colorado Parents for Vaccinated Communities suggests you take action by sharing your concerns with school administrators—even local and state legislators. Sometimes low rates simply reflect parents not submitting records to the school, and not actual low levels of vaccination in that school. Talk to other parents at your school or daycare about the importance of vaccinating and the safety and efficacy of vaccines. CPVC can coordinate a guest speaker to attend parent groups or school events to discuss the importance of immunizations and answer any questions parents might have. CPVC can also provide you with information about vaccines for school newspapers, parent newsletters, or social media outreach and also work with your local public health agency to arrange for on-site immunization clinics at school.
Colorado is one of 19 states that allows for personal exemption of vaccines without medical necessity and subsequently has some of the lowest levels of vaccinated children in the country. In 2015, Colorado had the lowest rate of kindergartners vaccinated for measles in the U.S. As I am sure lots of parents have, I have incurred many roadblocks to ensuring the health and safety of my family. That’s why I am thankful that Colorado legislation requires vaccine rate transparency and that there are organizations like CPVC that give parents the resources and support to protect children who are part of a vulnerable health group—children like my son. I only hope that schools in Colorado will work to utilize these resources as I have.
For more information on CPVC, you can visit www.coparents4vax.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Brown is a spouse, mother, and registered nurse. She graduated summa cum laude from Colorado State University-Pueblo. She is raising two wonderful boys, Rhett and Zen. She is first in line for her annual flu shot, plays piano, and ignores laundry piles in favor of reading books. Her oldest child is medically complex; holding his hand in the ambulance, driving hours to specialty hospitals, cuddling in pediatric wards, and the tears of leaving him with surgeons in the OR have made her an outspoken advocate of vaccines.