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State says Burbank Unified’s kindergartens are ‘safe’ in defending against disease outbreaks

The headquarters for the Burbank Unified School District on Olive Avenue in Burbank.
Burbank Unified’s 11 kindergarten programs located at district elementary schools have been deemed safe at preventing an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, according to data released by California’s Department of Public Health.
(File photo)

Burbank Unified’s 11 kindergarten programs located in district elementary schools have been deemed safe at preventing an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.

That news comes as the district confirmed to the Burbank Leader it dealt with 14 cases of vaccine-preventable diseases last year and has a population of 66 unvaccinated students.

“BUSD is very proud of our health-services staff and attendance and office staff at the school sites,” said Stacy Cashman, the district’s director of student services, in an email.

“They work extremely hard, beginning with [kindergarten] orientation and then throughout the summer, educating and informing parents regarding vaccination requirements,” Cashman added.

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State health department vaccination information was submitted by California districts and schools, both public and private, last fall and does not count actions taken by schools since.

Burbank Unified’s record stands out among neighboring Glendale Unified and Los Angeles Unified school districts, which had kindergarten programs listed as “vulnerable.”

Information about the concluded school year is available at shotsforschool.org and categorized into four groups.

Kindergarten programs with 95% to 100% all-required-vaccination, or ARV, rates, are designated in the best or “safest” category. All 11 district kindergarten programs in Burbank Unifed are 95% or higher.

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The World Health Organization says a 95% ARV rate is necessary to maintain “herd” immunity, which means a student who, for whatever reason, cannot be immunized is still safe because all other students are vaccinated for diseases, such as measles.

Schools are “moderately vulnerable” for an outbreak at 94.9% to 90%, “more vulnerable” at 89.9% to 80% or “most vulnerable” at under 80%.

The ARV rate measures if students have received required vaccinations for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella as well as varicella, commonly known as chickenpox.

Burbank Unified registered 11 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and three cases of chickenpox last year.

Quick containment is pivotal, particularly for the district’s 66 unvaccinated children, or those who have claimed a permanent medical exemption and are missing at least one vaccination.

To obtain an exemption, a student must receive clearance from a doctor.

Last year, 4,812 kindergartners statewide claimed exemptions, according to state data, with 783 from Los Angeles County.

“BUSD’s health staff first confirms vaccine-preventable diseases with the child’s medical provider, and then our schools follow the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control,” Cashman said.

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Cashman said the majority of cases in the district involve children “not in school.” She said the school district asks for confirmation from the student’s doctor and informs the public health department.

If a child in class is showing signs of a vaccine-preventable disease, the student is removed from the school and his or her parents are advised to seek medical attention.

According to Cashman, those students are then not allowed to return to school until they provide a verified letter from a healthcare provider that “there is no diagnosis that would prevent them from attending school.”

Cashman credits district head nurse Lenora Aguilera, above all, for Burbank Unified’s success in combating diseases.

“[She] works with the district, school sites and Los Angeles County Office of Education to make sure Burbank Unified is following laws and recommendations when it comes to student health and vaccination requirements,” Cashman said.

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