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STUDENTS IN 8TH, 12TH MUST GET SHOTS IN ’95

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Although the decision was made in October, four school districts are just now learning that they must require all students entering eighth and 12th grade next year to have a second measles shot.

The Salt Lake City-County Health Department currently is sending representatives to school board meetings in the Granite, Jordan, Salt Lake and Murray districts to explain the new requirement.The City-County Board of Health two months ago agreed to require eighth- and 12th-graders to show proof of two vaccines protecting against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) before enrolling in the fall of 1995.

Jordan School District spokeswoman Patty Dahl said the district is waiting for materials from the Health Department to include in "Windows," the district's newsletter that will go to every household in January.

Granite District also is waiting for information and will decide later how to inform parents since the December-January newsletter already is filled with other material, said Granite spokesman Kent Gardner. It's likely that the measles shot information will be sent directly from schools to parents, but no decisions have been made.

A few school district officials note that it's important for them to get information early because they begin printing next year's registration and enrollment packets in February.

The new immunization requirement will affect more than 26,000 students in the four districts.

Betsy Bradley, the agency's immunization outreach nurse, and Thomas Schlenker, the agency's executive director, have begun meeting with school boards this week. They met with the Jordan Board of Education Tuesday night and with Murray Wednesday night. They will meet with Granite on Dec. 13 and Salt Lake on Jan. 3.

Bradley said she also plans to meet with regional PTA presidents and school nurses and will send written informational packets to people who write district newsletters.

Bradley said the Health Department's decision still needs one more technical stamp of approval from the Board of Health to make it official. She said that is expected to occur Jan. 5.

The vaccines are a public health issue, she said. Until recently, doctors thought that children were well protected if they got one MMR shot.

"But all through the country, we are seeing pockets of measles outbreaks, so the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recommended that the states go back and require second doses," she said.

If second shots are given to eighth- and 12th-graders next year and that schedule is continued, all Salt Lake County schoolchildren will be covered in four years.

"We're just going back and covering all the kids who've only had one dose their entire life," Bradley said.

Currently, all Utah schoolchildren between ages 4 and 6 entering kindergarten are protected because they were required to have had the second MMR dose to enroll in school. But many older students are at risk of illness because many have had only one shot.

Last year, there were 94 reported cases of measles in Salt Lake County.

"Our intent is to get this information out to the public, the schools, to mom and dad, so they can take care of it," she said. "If they have insurance, they can go to their own doctor. Otherwise, come to us and we'll gladly give it."