EPISD will require measles immunization proof before school begins

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By Sophia Navarro

El Paso Independent School District students will have to show proof
they’ve taken both doses of the measles vaccine, or they won’t be allowed
to attend school in the fall, a spokesman said.

The move comes after the six cases of measles have been confirmed in
the El Paso area as of early July, said Gustavo Reveles, a district
spokesman.

“Students must provide proof of immunization compliance upon
registration,” Reveles said. “At this moment, whatever is set in place for
now for the 2019-2020 school year is the procedure we are following.”
The district expects parents to comply and does not anticipate a drop in
attendance due to the new requirement, Reveles said.

The district will comply with a recommendation from the El Paso
Department of Public Health to drop its provisional enrollment policy and
require all students to show proof of both doses of the MMR (mumps,
measles, and rubella) vaccine before being able to attend school, Reveles
said.

The El Paso Department of Public Health, 5115 El Paso Drive, is one of three clinics offering low-cost MMR vaccines with extended hours as the school year approaches. El Paso Independent School District is requiring all students to have both doses of the vaccine prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

It was not a surprise that after 25 years measles have returned to El Paso
since other states have seen a return as well, said Dr. Fernando Gonzalez,
lead epidemiologist at the El Paso Department of Public Health.
More than 1,148 cases of measles have been confirmed in 30 states since
January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prior to this school year, the district allowed students to enroll with only one
dose of each state-required vaccine with an agreement that the subsequent
doses be completed as soon as possible. Due to the current
circumstances, that provision has been eliminated for the 2019-2020
academic year.

Exception forms allowing students to attend classes without immunization
will still be accepted for religious and personal beliefs. Exemptions are
verified and allocated by the state, Reveles said.

The city is urging everyone to get vaccinated and look into their current
vaccination status to be sure they are protected, Gonzalez said.

Immunizations are being offered at three city clinics at $10 per child for one
vaccine and $15 per child for two or more vaccines under the Texas
Vaccine for Children program and Adult Safety Net according to a news
release from the city of El Paso. The clinics will have extended hours, from
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and remaining open during lunch hour, in order to make
vaccines more convenient.

A sign at the Henderson Health Clinic shows the recommended vaccines for young children. The El Paso Department of Public Health is urging area school superintendents to require both doses of the MMR vaccine prior to the start of the school year, and to remove the provisional enrollment policy for the 2019-2020 school year.

Measles is an aggressive disease that happens mostly in youth, but also in
adolescents and adults and can pose a serious health threat, Gonzalez
said.

To prevent measles, the two-shot immunization MMR is required by the
state to enroll in school. The first shot has a 94 percent effectiveness
rating, according to Gonzalez. Combined with the second dose, the
effectiveness climbs to 97 percent.

The first dose is recommended at a year old. The second dose is
recommended after the age of four.

There is no scientific evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism or poses
any serious threat to an individual.

A young boy shows off his Band-Aid after receiving a shot at the Henderson Health Clinic on July 25, 2019.

People who don’t have access to the MMR vaccine and to protect children
too young to receive the vaccine, people should wash their hands often and
avoid areas where measles cases have been reported, said Registered
Nurse Jaimi Zona at the El Paso Public Health Department’s Henderson
Health Clinic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 90 percent
of people not MMR-vaccinated will become infected. Symptoms appear
seven-14 days after contracted and infected people can spread measles to
others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing and the disease usually begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Measles can live in an airspace where an infected was, for up to two hours.

If showing signs and symptoms of a measles infection, people should visit
their medical care provider or call 2-1-1 to receive further instruction.

This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2019 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.

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