Local school districts are taking preventive measures against measles, even if their efforts are not always recognized or sometimes fall short.
The Arizona Republic, in a story last week, posted on its website measles immunization data collected in fall 2013, and drew some disconcerting conclusions about current conditions, but did not obtain the latest figures from local districts.
That story indicated the immunization rates for sixth-graders at six district schools known to our readers – three each in northern Glendale and Peoria – were below the 95 percent threshold for herd immunity, a rate that helps stop the spread of contagious diseases.
Immunization rates at each of those schools now exceed 95 percent, according to data supplied by the area school districts over the last couple of weeks. The news article last week also missed out on reporting a few other schools that, as of this year, lack herd immunity.
Nearly 1,000 state residents have likely been exposed to measles, largely stemming from an infected woman’s Jan. 20 to 21 visit to the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center, and many of them could remain in isolation until the middle of this week.
The Peoria Unified School District shared current data with the Peoria Times last week that shows every one of its schools now has herd immunity.
The Republic database, by contrast, indicated that sixth-grade immunization rates last year, among PUSD schools, were 93 percent at Kachina Elementary School and 94 percent at Sahuaro Ranch Elementary, Oakwood Elementary School, Sky View Elementary School and Sun Valley Elementary School.
Danielle Airey, a spokesperson for PUSD, provided some possible reasons for why immunization rates have increased at schools throughout the district.
“Our nurses stay apprised of updates from Maricopa County Department of Public Health and are prepared with resources for our community if they are needed, not just in the instance of a particular illness or outbreak,” she said.
“We also assess each situation individually and determine whether or not there is a need to disseminate information. Additionally, we provide vaccination information to new students when they enroll. Information is also included in the student handbook,” she added.
Of the 6,425 sixth-graders enrolled in Glendale or Peoria schools for 2013-14, about 132 (or 2 percent) were not immunized for measles and only around 14 of those students did not have an exemption form on file at their school.
Among the 5,737 kindergartners attending schools in those two cities last year, about 327 (6 percent) were exempted from a measles shot and approximately 91 of those students lacked the necessary exemption form.
The Arizona Republic reported that about a third of the kindergartners in the state who lacked measles vaccinations last year did not have the required exemption forms on file at their school.
And while 37 out of last year’s 80 kindergarten classes in Peoria or Glendale had immunization rates between 80 and 94 percent, the overall higher immunization rates for the facilities hosting those classes arguably provided school-wide herd immunity in most cases.