Boulder Valley officials said the school district only had about 25 students still missing immunization paperwork by the end of school today, down from about 5,000 when school started in August.
“On the whole parents have been very supportive,” said Stephanie Faren, Boulder Valley’s health services director. “A lot of them didn’t realize students were missing vaccines. We’re very thankful for all the families who helped us out.”
Boulder Valley, for the first time, is enforcing a state law requiring families to provide documentation that their children are vaccinated or to sign off on an exemption.
The district set a deadline of the Friday before Thanksgiving for families to provide documentation of vaccination, documentation of an appointment scheduled to receive the missing vaccination or a signed exemption form.
Families with children not in compliance were notified by email, phone and text messages. The district also continued to accept documentation over the break.
Faren said 76 students, out of 30,850, were still missing documentation Monday morning.
Some brought their paperwork to school, while school staff members called parents for others, she said. Those whose parents couldn’t be reached were called down to the office and asked to give their parents a call.
“We certainly don’t want to keep any student out of school,” she said. “For these last few kiddos, we really tried to make every option available.”
Faren said measles outbreaks across the country last school year prompted the decision to start enforcing the state requirement this school year.
If there’s an outbreak, health departments use school records to identify unvaccinated students who need to stay home. Along with setting a deadline for student documentation, Faren said, the district is collecting vaccination records from staff members.
Indira Gujral, communicable disease and emergency management division manager for Boulder County Public Health, said the health department is “very supportive” of the district’s decision to set a deadline.
“Immunization records are vital for making informed decisions,” she said in a written statement. “For example, when school outbreaks occur, it is very important for schools to have access to each child’s immunization record as this information helps guide emergency response efforts, prevents absenteeism and exclusion, and reduces impacts on children and families.”
Boulder County’s immunization rates of school-aged children tend to be lower than the rest of the state, ranging from 89% to 93%, depending on the vaccination, according to 2018-19 school year data collected by the state health department.
The lowest rate is for the combination of the tetanus and whooping cough vaccine that’s supposed to be given before students enter sixth grade.
In Colorado, parents are allowed to exempt children for medical, personal or religious reasons. For personal or religious exemptions, parents are required to provide the school with a statement every year.
Students who aren’t included in the fully vaccinated numbers are those with personal, medical or religious exemptions and those with missing paperwork.
Last school year, between 3% and 7% of Boulder Valley students were missing paperwork, depending on the vaccination, according to state records. In the neighboring St. Vrain Valley School District, 3% to close to 11% of students were missing paperwork, depending on the vaccination.
Faren said the percentage of Boulder Valley students who are fully vaccinated is going up as the district contacts families ahead of the deadline. The district expects to have an exact percentage in the next few weeks.