60 students in Fargo, WF asked to stay home until immunized

Published: Oct. 4, 2018 at 7:37 PM CDT
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Monday marked the deadline for North Dakota school students to get vaccinated.

This week in Fargo and West Fargo, 60 students were told they could not come to class because they were not up to date on their shots.

Ashley T. has two young kids in a private Fargo preschool. They have all the required vaccines for enrollment. But Ashley says she still worries when other students don't.

"So often people think, well if you're pro-vaccination, you shouldn't have a problem because your kids have vaccines,” she said. “That's not always the case...I'm very pro-vaccine, but I have an eight-month-old child who can't have the MMR vaccine yet. He's not old enough."

And that's why North Dakota law mandates all students get vaccinated. According to century code 33-06-05, children must receive immunizations required by the department of health, in order to be admitted into school. The law sets a deadline of Oct. 1—or within 30 days of enrollment if after that.

Fargo Public Schools superintendent, Rupak Gandhi, says the district gave plenty of notice before the cutoff date.

"We had taken multiple effort to communicate with parents beforehand and let them know that if they don't have their vaccine by October 1,” he said, “then starting October 2, per state statute that they wouldn't be included."

Nancy Leith oversees school nurses in Cass County. She says within this area, vaccine days are no longer offered in-school. But:

"We do immunizations here at Public Health and we did increase the days that we offered immunizations, primarily in the month of August and the first part of September to help accommodate the increased demand," she said.

Still, not everyone made it by deadline.

Between Fargo and West Fargo schools, a total of 60 kids were asked not to come in until they got their vaccinations.

The schools say most parents don't do this intentionally—in fact, even though 18 students in Fargo had missed school in the beginning of October, we’re told just a couple days later, all but four now have their immunizations.

And in West Fargo, 48 students were told not to come in on Oct. 2. But now, the schools tell us every single one of them is back in school.

We also reached out to Moorhead Area Public Schools to find out how they handle students without vaccination records. We're told Minnesota state law is different, and doesn't have a specific date for when vaccines are due. But the law still does require the vaccines in order for a student to enroll in school there. The schools tells us its nursing staff follows up with families who still need to send records or exemption forms.

And speaking of exemptions: North Dakota law does allow certain exemptions. For instance, if a parent has a religious belief, he or she can send a student to school with a note in lieu of the vaccine records.

"Some kids just cannot have the vaccine,” Fargo mom, Ashley T., said. “And I respect that."

Also, if a kid is immunocompromised, or has already had the chickenpox, he or she could get out of certain vaccines—with a doctor's note.

But for children not covered under an exemption, nurse, Nancy Leith, says it's important not to add to the number of the unvaccinated.

"If 95 percent of that community is vaccinated,” Leith said, “they are protecting the complete herd. So it's just to everyone's advantage to have more people immunized."

That 95 percent concept is known as herd immunity—also called community immunity.