School district offering free vaccinations at one-day clinic

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By Steve Guntli

In an effort to combat low vaccination numbers, the Blaine school district is offering free vaccinations on Wednesday, May 27.

The school district is partnering with the Whatcom County Health Department and the Western Washington University school of nursing to run the vaccine clinic. The clinic will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Blaine Middle School cafeteria.

School district nurses Margaret Gibson and Jodi Greene want to target incoming kindergarteners and sixth graders, as well as any remaining students who are still out of compliance with the school’s vaccination policy. The event will also be open to school district staff and people in the community without access to healthcare. The clinic will offer vaccines for MMR, Tdap, Varicella, HepB and polio.Gibson hopes the clinic will encourage people to get vaccinated.

“We’ve historically had difficulty in Blaine with people taking exemptions for vaccinations,” she said. “But the fact is vaccines are safe and they work. We’re hoping to change the dialogue and provide education to the community.”

Blaine traditionally has lower vaccination rates than the state average. In the 2010-2011 school year, more than 10 percent of parents of incoming kindergarteners requested non-medical, non-religious vaccine exemptions for their children, according to the Washington State Department of Health. The state average during that same period was 5.8 percent. According to Gibson, those numbers have been steadily decreasing since 2011, when the state legislature mandated a healthcare provider’s signature on the certificate of exemption. In the 2013-2014 school year, only about 7 percent requested exemptions.Nationwide, a growing anti-vaccination movement has caused concern for healthcare providers, as cured diseases like measles and whooping cough have been making a comeback. Earlier this year, a measles outbreak originating at Disneyland in southern California infected 150 people nationwide, including seven people in Washington and one in Whatcom County. Many of the people infected had refused vaccinations for personal or philosophical reasons, according to a report by NBC News.

Consent and screening forms will be available at the clinic. Parents or designated adults must be present with children.

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