SD2 to host vaccination clinics to catch students up to new rules – Billings Gazette

RiverStone Health and School District 2 will hold four immunization clinics in January and February.

A new vaccination law passed last spring requires students to be immunized against varicella disease, more commonly known as chickenpox. Students in preschool or prekindergarten need one dose, while K-12 students need two.

Students in grades seven-12 are also required to have one dose of a vaccine for pertussis, or whooping cough. In previous years, only a Td, or tetanus/diphtheria, shot was required.

The clinics will be held at:

SD2 notified parents of students who don’t have the vaccinations. Parents or guardians who returned information and consent forms to schools and provided insurance information don’t need to be present at the clinics, according to a release from RiverStone. Students without insurance or whose insurance does not cover immunizations should see their school’s principal. No student will be denied a vaccine because they can’t pay.

SD2 had more than 2,000 students who weren’t up to date when the law took effect in October. While the law requires unvaccinated students to be held out of school, SD2 allowed students to continue attending.

SD2 Superintendent Terry Bouck has steadfastly defended the district’s policy. He told The Gazette in December that a large portion of the students who aren’t up to date are older students.

“With seniors and juniors, if they miss 10 days of school, they’re not going to get credit,” he said. “It’s not just about attendance, it’s about graduating.”

State officials have so far given the district a pass, citing a vaccine shortage in the Billings area during the early part of the school year and continued efforts by SD2 and RiverStone to vaccinate students.

Districts across the state were required to submit a report on immunization status Dec. 1, but only 86 percent of districts did. The Department of Health and Human Services hoped to have the rest of the reports by January and to issue a statewide report in March.

Before the new law was passed, Montana was the only state that did not require chickenpox vaccinations to attend public school. A Gazette analysis found that more than 10 percent of Montana schools didn’t have enough students immunized to ensure herd immunity, a term for near-universal inoculation that helps protect entire populations against a disease, even if the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective or certain people can’t get immunized for health reasons.