Immunizations

School looks different for kids. While many children still rely on remote learning, Oregon Health Authority wants to make sure they are safe as schools reopen across the state. This includes making sure kids are up to date on childhood vaccines, like measles.

Feb. 17 is School Exclusion Day, and the Oregon Immunization Program reminds parents that children may not be able to attend school or childcare on that day (or when their school reopens) if their records on file show missing immunizations. Schools also have the option of blocking remote learning access for kids without current immunization records on Feb. 17.

Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified childcare facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their required immunizations or have an exemption. The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently required for children; the current Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not allow for children under 16 (Pfizer) or under 18 (Moderna) to be vaccinated.

“Immunization is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator in the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “Just two years ago, we saw several measles cases in the Northwest. We don’t want another disease outbreak of on top of COVID-19. Immunizations are the most effective way to stop the spread of measles, to keep kids and school communities healthy and safe.”

If a child’s school and childcare vaccination records are not up to date on Feb. 17, the child will be sent home. In 2020, local health departments sent 21,598 letters to parents and guardians informing them that their children needed immunizations to stay in school or childcare. A total of 3,268 children were kept out of school or childcare until the necessary immunization information was turned in to the schools or childcare facilities. This year, letters to parents were mailed on or before Feb. 3.

Parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their health care provider or local health department or call 211Info — just dial 211 or go to 211info.org. No one can be turned away from a local health department because of the inability to pay for required vaccines. Many pharmacists can immunize children age seven and older; contact your neighborhood pharmacy for details.

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