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APS sets deadline for measles shots

Albuquerque Public Schools students without a measles vaccination have 10 days to get vaccinated or provide a state waiver form in order to be allowed to return to the classroom, district official said Tuesday.

APS sent letters home to parents with students whose immunization records are not up-to-date informing them they have until Feb. 20 to provide proof of immunization or a state-approved exemption form.

Should a case of measles show up in a school, those students who are not vaccinated – even if they have an exemption – will likely have to miss three weeks of school, the district also said.

Both state law and APS policy require students be vaccinated. The recent outbreak in California has since spread to 17 states, including three that border New Mexico, prompting APS to strictly enforce the policy, interim Superintendent Brad Winter said in a letter to principals.

“Due to the recent outbreak of measles throughout the country, it has come to my attention that there are students who are not up-to-date on their immunizations and currently attending APS schools,” Winter wrote.

Last week, Santa Fe Public Schools sent home a similar letter telling parents they needed to get their children vaccinated by Feb. 17 – 10 days from when the letter was sent out.

“There is really no other virus that is as contagious as measles,” Dr. Randall Knott, a pediatrician at the University of New Mexico Hospital, told the Journal earlier this month.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing, and can remain in the air for a few hours. That is what makes it “incredibly important” for children to be vaccinated, Knott said.

If there was a measles outbreak in Albuquerque, students without a vaccination could miss three weeks of school, according to an APS news release.

“If there is a case of measles or any other vaccine-preventable disease at a school, students who haven’t been immunized – either because their shots aren’t up-to-date or they have a state-approved exemption – may have to stay home from school for about three weeks,” the news release said. “These students would be considered contagious, therefore on-site homework assistance such as home hospital wouldn’t be available to them.”

Parents who have questions about vaccinations should contact the nurse at their child’s school, the news release said. Eleven APS schools have on-site health centers where students can be vaccinated.

The New Mexico Department of Health recently reported that 3,335 New Mexico children, or about 0.7 percent, lacked some or all required vaccinations in 2014 – up from 1,148 in 1999. State law requires children to be vaccinated for measles, but also allows parents to exempt their children on medical or religious grounds.