ANNISTON, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Public Health has released data from 2017-2018 that shows the percentage of students in each county that had up-to-date “Certificates of Immunization.” To attend school in Alabama, students must receive vaccines for a variety of diseases including tetanus and measles.
Students may receive exemptions for religious or medical purposes, but those students are not included in the “expired Certificate of Immunization” data.
A full county-by-county breakdown of the numbers may be found here.
Calhoun County had the lowest percentage of students with up-to-date vaccines at 77% compared to the statewide average of 92%.
In total, 4,177 students had expired certificates while an additional 70 did not have a certificate at all. These numbers regarding Calhoun County refer to all schools and school systems within the county, not just Calhoun County Schools.
“I’m shocked, to be honest with you,” said Leroy Austin, whose children used to attend school in Calhoun County. “I think it’s important to have it. I believe that if you don’t vaccinate your children, you’re putting the public at risk.”
With parents like Austin expressing concerns, CBS 42 reached out to Lesa Cotton, the Health Services Director for Calhoun County Schools, to find out why so many students weren’t up to date on their vaccines.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” said Cotton. “So, the nurses go through the forms monthly to see who’s about to expire and send letters home to parents letting them know that they need an immunization.”
Cotton explains that an expired certificate does not mean that a child has never been immunized and the solution could be as simple as getting a single extra shot. Cotton adds that since the numbers are a year old, many of those expirations have since been addressed.
When asked how common it is to have a student’s certificate expire in Calhoun County, Cotton said, “it’s a daily occurrence.”
But should there be a case of measles within a given school, students without up-to-date vaccinations could be impacted.
“If we had a case of measles in a school, if students were not up to date on their [measles vaccine], they would not be able to attend school,” said Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Landers could not confirm how many of those students from 2017-2018 were behind on their measles vaccines, nor could she confirm what the current numbers are, but Cotton tells CBS 42 that nurses for each individual school keep “constant” tabs on that information.
“My advice to parents would be to be aware of vaccinations and make sure your child is immunized,” said Cotton.
Just over 93% of students in Jefferson County were up-to-date on their vaccines from 2017-2018 per the Alabama Department of Public Health.