Over the last couple of years, we’ve been working with partners using data collected by the U of A to stem the tide of lower vaccination rates in Arizona schools. Last year’s initiatives included implementation of our Action Plan to Address Vaccine Exemptions which included updating the vaccine exemption form (which reinforces to parents know how important it is to vaccinate their kids and the consequences if they don’t). The form also makes it clear that if there’s an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in a school and their child isn’t vaccinated, he or she may not be allowed to attend school for up to 3 weeks or until the risk period ends.
We’ve also been working with partners to increase information about what vaccines are needed and how the public can find the needed vaccines easily. We created a reference and resource document to help schools and childcare facilities better understand the requirements. We publish school and preschool exemption rates on our website, and work with the county health departments to improve school follow-up. Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, every school and childcare hears something from us.
For example, we or the county health department contact schools and childcare facilities that have coverage levels below 90% to discuss their rates and data quality and to offer help. Schools and preschools with coverage between 90 and 94% get a notification from us of their coverage levels, and schools with coverage at or above 95% receive a recognition certificate.
We and the county health departments will be analyzing this year’s report to identify additional evidence-based strategies to combat this troubling trend toward lower vaccination rates in our schools.