CULLMAN – There has been much fear and controversy over the past several years in relation to vaccines and growing outbreaks in different parts of the country. New laws have been passed in several different states in regards to vaccination requirements in schools, with some laws expanding exemptions and others restricting them.
Cullman City Schools System Nurse, Jessie Land, sheds some light on one of Alabama’s current laws and exemptions. Currently, Alabama’s laws require all children entering into a daycare or school system be immunized, however, some exemptions are allowed.
“We are mandated by the Alabama School Immunization Law,” said Land. “Under the Alabama School Immunization Law, medical exemptions must have a physician signature and religious exemptions can be obtained by the local county health departments.”
Alabama as a whole has the 6th highest inoculation rate in the country. According to the Washington Post, 77 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months have been vaccinated, putting our state average 7 percent higher than the national average. Over 90 percent of kindergartners entering the school system in Alabama are vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, even with the option for medical and religious exemptions.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Cullman County’s rate of immunization is 89.89 percent, with only 0.642 percent filing for religious exemption. In other counties such as Shelby and Baldwin counties, those figures come out to some of the highest rates of religious exemption with 1.5 percent for Shelby and 1.3 percent in Baldwin.
"In my career, I have actually been able to see these diseases go away," Dr. Karen Landers, a pediatrician who works with the Alabama Department of Public Health, told AL.com in a recent interview. "I haven't seen a case of measles in many, many years. While our vaccination rates are high, the refusal among patients with access to information is very troubling."
Nurse Land of Cullman City Schools says that she personally recommends vaccinating children, and that safety during outbreaks is always a priority.
As a nurse, I personally recommend vaccinations for preventable disease,” Land said. “We are always concerned about the health and safety of our students. Our lead nurse is informed by the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health when any outbreaks of illness occur. We have a nurse at each school that monitors our students for signs/symptoms of illness on a daily basis.”
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This story was originally published in the Feb. 16 issue of CullmanSense print edition