Annual school Exclusion Day varies by county due to Omicron; Deadline for parents to provide kids’ vaccine records is Feb. 16 in all but seven counties

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority has allowed local public health authorities to set alternate dates this year by which parents must provide vaccine records for their children or be excluded from school.

The annual school immunization Exclusion Day typically happens during the third week in February; this year it is Feb. 16. But due to unexpected challenges the COVID-19 Omicron variant has presented for local public health authorities, schools and families, Exclusion Day will be March 30 for schools in Douglas County and April 20 for schools in Clackamas, Clatsop, Jefferson, Morrow, Multnomah and Yamhill counties.

“Seven counties in Oregon chose an alternative Exclusion Day to give overburdened systems time to gather information,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school immunization coordinator in OHA’s Public Health Division. “Most counties are sticking with the Feb. 16 Exclusion Day date, but some have chosen alternate Exclusion Day dates for this year only.”

County health departments have sent letters to families to let them know if their children’s records at the school or daycare shows missing vaccines. Parents who receive the letter should take action by the date listed on the letter, depending on their county’s timeline, including:

  • Making sure to update the record at school or daycare when the child gets the shots.
  • Contacting 211 or the local health department to get help finding a clinic.

Oregon’s immunization requirements protect kids in school and childcare against 11 diseases. Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their required immunizations or have an exemption. The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently required for children.

Children must have immunizations for the following diseases, or an exemption, to be in compliance with state school immunization laws:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis A
  • Varicella
  • Hib

If a child’s school and childcare vaccination records are not up to date on their county’s Exclusion Day date, the child will be sent home. During the 2020-2021 school year, local health departments sent 25,147 letters to parents and guardians informing them that their children needed immunizations to stay in school or childcare. This year, letters to parents were mailed on or before Feb. 2.  Letters may be mailed later for counties with an alternate Exclusion Day.

Matthews said this year’s school immunization reminders are especially relevant. Three years ago, there were measles cases in the Northwest, and another outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases could strain already-taxed hospitals and health systems.

“We don’t want another disease outbreak on top of COVID-19,” she said. “Immunizations are the most effective way to stop the spread of measles, to keep kids and school communities healthy and safe.”

Parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their health care provider or local health department or call 211Info — just dial 211 or go to 211info.org. No one can be turned away from a local health department because of the inability to pay for required vaccines. Many pharmacists can immunize children age 7 and older; contact your neighborhood pharmacy for details.

Additional information on school immunizations can be found at the Immunization Program website.