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Education Station: Canton City Schools helping parents beat childhood immunization deadline

Is your child fully immunized? If not, their school could keep them out of class. Here's the free solution Canton has come up with to get all kids their shots.

CANTON, Ohio — Parents, a gentle reminder for you - students who are not up to date on immunizations may not be allowed to attend classes after your district’s deadline. But Canton City Schools is helping parents beat the cutoff.

"We wanna be in a position where this isn’t truly a mandate, but more of an opportunity," says Canton City Schools Assistant Superintendent Jason Dixon.

This past summer, Canton City Schools noticed a troubling number of K-12 students without proper proof of childhood shots, which violates Ohio law.

"We came up with a significant list. About 12% of our total enrollment actually does not have the proper proof of immunization needed by law – state law – to be in school," says Dixon.

To put the 12% number in perspective, the national average is less than 5% of students without proper immunization records. Nearly 1,000 students in Canton’s roughly 8,000-student population are without proper proof of immunization against diseases like chicken pox, measles and mumps.

"As a school district as a whole, I would say we were fairly alarmed with that number," says Dixon.

"With a large number of children, they are put at increased risk for some of these vaccine-preventable diseases," says Canton City Schools Health Services Coordinator Caitlin Dixon. 

According to Ohio Revised Code 3313.671, “… no pupil, at the time of initial entry or at the beginning of each school year, to an elementary or high school shall be permitted to remain in school for more than fourteen days without written evidence that the pupil has been immunized.” 

But Canton Schools is bending the rules a bit.

"Our board policy says that we can exclude children - not that we shall - hopefully, not only educate the importance of student immunization, but allow them a way to get this taken care of and handled," says Dixon.

The school board is giving parents until October 31st to get their kids immunized, offering free immunization clinics for qualified students with the help of community health partner LifeCare.

Canton mom Kara Brown brought her 12-year-old 7th grader Jada to the first of Canton's clinics on Wednesday to bring her shots up to date.

"The district sent something home, so we came here. It’s very important, because new stuff is popping up and you don’t know what’s gonna come back," said Brown.

 "Our hope is that with this creative solution, that we can get a lot of these cleared up for our students and our families," said Dixon.

Canton’s free immunization clinics are for uninsured, underinsured or Medicaid-eligible students of Canton Schools only. They’re funded by VFC - or Vaccines for Children. There are thousands of VFC sites all over the country providing free immunizations for kids, so check with your district. 

"Keeping our students healthy so that they can attend school is a top priority for us here," says Nichols. 

The COVID vaccine is not being offered at Canton’s clinics.

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