By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen school district, firing up its second immunization campaign, has about 5,000 students who still need shots.
It took about four months for the Killeen Independent School District to get the number of elementary students who need shots down to fewer than 10. Now KISD has to tackle the thousands of middle and high school students who are in the same situation.
The immunization push is KISDs effort to get in compliance with new, more stringent state immunization laws, which were supposed to take effect at the beginning of the year.
The number of KISD elementary school students in need of immunizations was about 1,800. The school district has whittled that number down to single digits, which KISD Executive Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jim Hawkins calls a miracle. He said school officials were surprised to find out that even more middle and high school students dont have their shots.
Were starting the same drill, with notification letters and clinics, Hawkins said. He said he hopes to have most of the students immunized by February. KISD may partner with the Bell County Public Health District to offer more shot
Hawkins said immunizing middle school students, like the elementary school students, should only be a matter of getting the parents involved. Compelling high school students to get the needed shots could be more interesting. The older students, if barred from school for lack of shots, could face consequences for being absent, he said.
Getting the elementary school children squared away took a barrage of letters and phone calls to parents from school nurses, Hawkins said, as well as a partnership with Fort Hood officials.
Despite rumor to the contrary, Hawkins said the district did not pay for any of the needed immunizations. Some of the immunizations may have been paid for by Blue Cross Blue Shields Care Van program.
Blue Cross Blue Shields Care Van travels the state, providing immunizations to uninsured and medically underserved children. On Nov. 12, when children were turned away from school for lacking shots, they were directed to Marlboro Student Service Center, where the Care Van was stationed, to receive their shots.
KISD is already thinking about the future and ways the school district might maintain its compliance with the immunization law. One option, Hawkins said, might be for the district to pay for its own immunization clinic. He said KISD would not pay for the individual shots for students, but KISD would pay to staff the clinic.
Hawkins said a KISD shot clinic would address the problem of too few shot clinics.
Theres a tremendous need for that, Hawkins said. It would more than cover the cost for us to pay it and have them in school every day.
Every day a student is out of school can cost the district a significant amount of money. Hawkins said if KISD had to put 2,000 students out, it would cost KISD $100,000 a day in state funding.
Hawkins said he isnt worried about sanctions from the department of health for not being in compliance.
Its the first year, Hawkins said. So we take it seriously and its important, but weve got to be realistic about it.
Department of Health spokesperson Julie Townsend said there arent really any sanctions to be taken against school districts that arent already in full compliance.
We have these rules, but we dont have any way to enforce them, Townsend said. She said if the department of health knows of a school district not in compliance with the immunization law, the main recourse is to audit that school district.
Thats more to educate them, help them out, she said.
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