Despite Alaska state requirements, many Kenai Peninsula school children are not being fully vaccinated.
Alaska state law requires that before attending school, children must be vaccinated against a variety of diseases.
Those diseases include measles, mumps, polio, varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.
However, any of the district’s nearly 9,000 students can provide a notarized document exempting them from being vaccinated for religious or medical reasons.
There have been 1,060 vaccination exemptions in the Kenai Peninsula School District this school year alone, according to an email from the district’s spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff; 833 exemptions were for religious reasons, while 227 exemptions were for medical reasons. The district doesn’t archive religious exemptions issued in previous years, Erkeneff wrote.
The district hasn’t received concerns from parents about children not being vaccinated against various diseases, according to Erkeneff.
“However, as this topic is being discussed nationally, it is likely that there are local parents who are talking, gathering information, and sharing it,” Erkeneff wrote. “All students must have vaccinations up to date prior to attending school, and this is required by Alaska state law.”
While the school district hasn’t heard concerns, other professionals around the community have. Dr. Lynn Carlson of the Kenai MediCenter said in the past, it wasn’t common for patients to inquire about vaccine information, but now people ask every couple of days.
Nationally, vaccination has been a trending topic, especially with the recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland in California. Since the beginning of January, over 120 cases of measles have been confirmed across 17 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. None of the cases have been reported in Alaska.
“Measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory illness,” according to the Alaska state epidemiology website. “Common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, followed by a rash over most of the body. Although no complications occur for most, pneumonia can develop in one out of 20 infected people, and for every 1,000 infected people, one or two will die.”
One common concern regarding vaccines is a belief that they cause autism in children, according to the CDC.
Thimerosal, a preservative found in several common vaccines has been the subject of several studies regarding its role in causing autism, according to the CDC website. The website states that in 2001, Thimerosal was no longer used as a vaccine ingredient, or was only used in trace amounts.
“Besides Thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to autism as well,” the website states. “However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and autism.”
The “CDC supports the Institute of Medicine conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism rates in children,” according to the website.
Mountain View Elementary School Nurse Matthew Neisinger said that parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for information regarding vaccines.
“If a parent has questions about required vaccines, any of the nurses are happy to answer any questions,” Neisinger said.
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.