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School Closed, but Kids Still Need Vaccinations for Distance Learning

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Students and their families have had their lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the compliance rate was 90% but this year it’s only 65%, Fresno Unified spokeswoman Nikki Henry said.

Now, with distance learning set to resume or even underway, here comes another curveball.

California law says students still need to prove they’ve been vaccinated before they can start online school.

No immunization, no enrollment — even for distance learning.

Fresno County interim public health officer Dr. Rais Vohra said at Wednesday’s coronavirus update that children’s immunization rates are lower this year, likely because parents fearing exposure to COVID-19 are reluctant to take them to the pediatrician’s office.

Last year, the compliance rate was 90% but this year it’s only 65%, Fresno Unified spokeswoman Nikki Henry said.

“We highly encourage all parents to get their students into their primary care doctor for immunizations as soon as possible,” she said.

Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said the district has seen an “uptick” in the number of seventh-graders who haven’t completed their immunizations.

Immunization Schedule

According to the California Department of Education, kindergartners need to have five doses of immunization for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, four doses for polio, two for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), three for hepatitis B, and one for varicella (chickenpox).

Seventh-graders must have had one dose of immunization for tetanus, reduced diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap), and two doses for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

All children under age 18 who enter a California school for the first time or transfer between schools must present a written immunization record.

The first day of online school for Fresno and Clovis unified students is Monday.

Central Unified began distance learning on Wednesday.

GV Wire reporter Jim Jakobs contributed to this story.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email