Measles is a highly contagious illness that can cause serious health problems, including brain damage, deafness and, in rare cases, death. Vaccination can prevent measles infections.
Enlarge Icon
Measles is a highly contagious illness that can cause serious health problems, including brain damage, deafness and, in rare cases, death. Vaccination can prevent measles infections.
Credit: AP/Eric Risberg

Seattle Schools doesn’t know which students are unvaccinated

Measles outbreaks sickened dozens of Washington children this year, and today marks the legal cutoff for most Seattle Public Schools students to show proof of immunizations or exemptions – or be kept out of school.

The district does not plan to crack down for months even though the state health department is clear on this law: Students in Washington public schools, private schools and child care have 30 days after starting school to be immunized.

“There is nothing in the law that allows the 30 day period to be extended,” said Danielle Koenig of the state health department.

In Seattle, that grace period should end today, Friday.

But Samara Hoag, the health services manager for Seattle Public Schools, said the district has not determined which children are out of compliance.

The district has not excluded kids for lack of immunization for 20 years, Hoag said.

She said it’s a lot of work to request and verify 7,000 missing records.

“If you moved here from Texas or Tennessee or Nepal or something, your data is not in the state registry," she said. "You might have had the shots, but we have incomplete information.”

Hoag said Seattle will give families until January to prove students’ immunization status.

Other districts have made more progress.

At Spokane Public Schools, starting October 14, students without complete immunization paperwork will be barred from school.