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LA Unified taking steps to track under-vaccinated kids

A retracted journal article has reignited the debate about vaccines and autism.
Photo by ad-vantage via Flickr Creative Commons
LA Unified has hired 10 temporary nurses to free up full-time nurses for the task of tracking immunizations among its youngest students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District says it is starting to take steps to deal with the fact that it has been unable to track whether students who start kindergarten without all of their immunizations eventually get up to date.  The district is hiring temporary and full-time nurses, and is initially focusing on improving record keeping at its pre-K centers.

Last year, about 13 percent of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District entered kindergarten with some – but not all – of their required immunizations. It's up to the schools to follow up, and ensure these conditional entrants get fully vaccinated.

But as KPCC and the Center for Health Reporting reported three weeks ago, the L.A. school district, and others across the state, couldn't report how many of those students ended up fully vaccinated by the end of the school year.

This year, the number of conditional entrants increased to 20 percent. During a school board meeting on Tuesday, two LA Unified health officials acknowledged the growing problem, and said they were taking steps to fix it.

Tonya Ross, the district's director of nursing services, said it's a resource issue: Many schools have a nurse on campus just one day a week. So the task of entering student immunization data into a database often fell to an office clerk – or was left by the wayside.

To begin addressing the problem, LA Unified has hired 10 contract nurses for two months, at a cost of $76,000. This will free up current school nurses to focus on making sure preschool-aged Early Childhood Education students become fully vaccinated, Ross said.

Nurses will review immunization records, assist school staff in devising plans for data entry, follow up on missing records, help families access immunizations, and organize school-based immunization programs, when warranted, according to a district spokeswoman.

Ross said the school district is also hiring more permanent nurses – 40 so far this year, and it says it hopes to add 20 more.