Local School Districts Respond to the Measles Outbreak

44 of about 1,100 local students are not vaccinated

By Pamela Doan

The measles have been in the news daily since an outbreak started in California last month. Recently, Amtrak riders were notified that a Bard College student with the measles rode a train around the state, including through Putnam County. The Center for Disease Control reports cases in New York as well as 13 other states and there are now more than 100 people with confirmed cases.

The Garrison Union Free School District Board of Education discussed the measles outbreak at their meeting on Feb. 4 after a board member expressed concern. Superintendent Laura Mitchell said that GUFS intends to send information home to parents.

There are 16 students out of approximately 220 in the district who have religious exemptions on file for the vaccine. The New York State Education Department requires students to be vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps and Rubella. That level is considered to protect 97 out of 100 people from contracting measles; it is very effective.

Measles are controlled when the majority of the population is vaccinated — at least 95 percent. The GUFS student population could be at risk. Mitchell said, “It seems like a high number for such a small school with eight families claiming the religious exemption.”

The fact sheet for GUFS parents will include information about the vaccines and the measles. Mitchell said: “We do respect the religious exemption, but there could be possible consequences to decisions that people make. There are misunderstandings about the vaccine and there’s a lot of research saying that it’s good to vaccinate and protect your child. That’s also why we’re sending the fact sheet out so people can make informed decisions.”

Within the Haldane School District, Superintendent Dr. Diana Bowers said that there are 28 children who are not vaccinated among a population of about 900 students. She said: “There isn’t any need for concern. We are above the 95 percent vaccination rate and have fewer unvaccinated students than the average New York school.” Haldane is not planning to take any steps at this time.

Measles is highly contagious and can cause serious, life-threatening complications. The Putnam County Health Department offers vaccinations; for information, visit putnamcountyny.com.


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