A.L. kindergardeners were over 90 percent vaccinated last year

Published 9:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2015


With a multi-state outbreak of measles sweeping the country and one confirmed case in Minnesota, Albert Leans might worry about the sickness themselves.

However, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, Albert Lea students are well-protected from the disease. Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carol Bosma is a licensed school nurse with Albert Lea Area Schools. — Hannah Dillon/Albert Lea Tribune

Carol Bosma is a licensed school nurse with Albert Lea Area Schools. — Hannah Dillon/Albert Lea Tribune

Email newsletter signup

Children can get protected from measles with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — or MMR. In the 2013-14 school year, 96.64 percent of kindergarteners in Albert Lea were immunized with the MMR vaccine.

All of the other required vaccines — diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or DTaP; Hepatitis B; polio; and varicella, or chickenpox — were also over 90 percent for the last school year.

DTaP vaccination rates were 98.99 percent, Hepatitis B rates were 98.66 percent, polio rates were 98.99 percent and varicella rates were 96.64 percent.

Albert Lea kindergarteners also had a higher rate of vaccination than the state averages, which were on average 2.6 percentage points lower than Albert Lea.

Carol Bosma, licensed school nurse for Albert Lea Area Schools, said the school works hard to keep students vaccinated to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.

This is called herd immunity. According to U.S. Department of Health, herd immunity is when a majority of a population is vaccinated against a contagious disease. This reduces the possibility of an outbreak, which can protect those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

While the vaccination rates in Albert Lea are over 90 percent, there are two types of exemptions parents can file so their child isn’t required to be vaccinated: medical exemptions and conscientious objections.

Children who have medical exemptions can’t be vaccinated to keep them healthy. These children may have a compromised immune system where a live-virus vaccine may make them sick.

Lisa Dugger, licensed school nurse for Albert Lea Area Schools, said there aren’t many live-virus vaccines out there, but the MMR and varicella vaccines are live.

Conscientious objections can be filed by parents who choose for a personal reason not to have their children vaccinated.

Conscientious objections need to be notarized and medical exemptions need to be signed by a physician, Dugger and Bosma said.

Bosma said for conscientious objections, she and Dugger explain to the parents what would happen if an outbreak were to occur in Albert Lea.

They said if there was an outbreak the unvaccinated students would be excluded from school until it’s safe for them to return, which could take up to 21 days.

Minnesota is one of 20 states that allows parents to file conscientious objections to getting their children vaccinated, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

However, the national outbreak — which started in an amusement park in California and has infected 121 people in 17 states and Washington, D.C., as of Feb. 6 — has Minnesota lawmakers pushing for stricter rules for conscientious objections.

Minnesota Public Radio News said parents wishing to opt out of vaccinations would need to consult a physician under this bill, which is still going through the state House and Senate.

For vaccinated students, Bosma and Dugger said no vaccine is 100 percent effective for each person.

While the CDC says the vaccine is 93 percent effective with the first dose and 97 percent effective with the second dose, some students may have less of an immunity due to their own body makeup.

Bosma and Dugger said they feel the vaccination rates in Albert Lea are doing well, but they can always be better.

Though the typical goal may be to reach 100 percent immunized, Bosma and Dugger said that is impossible because of students who have medical exemptions.

And while the state’s measles vaccination rate is over 93 percent for last school year, Minnesota Public Radio News said that isn’t high enough to protect from a measles outbreak.

Bosma and Dugger said the school district works closely with Freeborn County Public Health and Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea to educate people about vaccines.

Bosma said the more educated people are about vaccines they better decision they can make regarding them.

“It’s not just a school nursing approach,” she said. “It’s a community approach.”