Keeping Up with Vaccinations a Year-Round Challenge for Some Schools

With just three weeks left in the school year, some Chicago Public Schools are finishing work that many schools try to have done at the beginning of the year.

It's not schoolwork, but making sure all children are up to date on their shots and annual physicals.

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CPS says it starts the school year with 78 percent of students in compliance with medical requirements, but some schools fall far below that average.

Brandis Friedman has the story of one school that started the school year far from medical compliance.


Brandis Friedman: For the students, this is the hardest part. But 12-year-old Dashauna McGary knew that she could be brave.

Dashauna McGary: It will just feel like a mosquito biting you, and just like a pinch.

Friedman: But for the adults here at Dulles Elementary getting one or two shots administered is minor compared to getting shots for hundreds of students over the course of the year.

Shari DavisShari Davis

Shari Davis, physician’s assistant: We find that unfortunately a lot of the CPS students are out of compliance for their physicals and vaccinations. There's a certain grade level where they are supposed to have a certain physical, vaccinations schedule.

Friedman: Shari Davis is the physician's assistant for the St. Bernard Hospital pediatric mobile health unit. The van travels to schools around the district providing immunizations, physicals and screenings needed to keep students healthy in school.

Dulles Elementary on the South Side has an enrollment of about 700 students.

At the beginning of the school year, approximately 500 of them needed some combination of screenings or shots.

Now, only a few remain.

Jolene Galpin, principal at Dulles Elementary: It makes me think, how can I ensure those last 25 kids are in medical compliance by end of the year?

Jolene GalpinJolene Galpin

Friedman: Principal Jolene Galpin and her team spend time scheduling visits from various mobile health units or making sure children can visit a neighborhood clinic to have paperwork completed.

Galpin: I think that the families and students in our community struggle with getting easy access to medical facilities in the community.

Friedman: Katrina Pavlik works with Communities In Schools, a nonprofit that works to connect schools with additional services, everything from field trips to arts performances, to access to health services.

Pavlik says schools like Dulles are going above and beyond what's required, but it's necessary to keep kids in school.

Katrina Pavlik: I think schools are in a tough position. They need that student in their seat learning, that’s really where they need to be. Schools with the limited amount of resources that they have are doing their very best to make sure that they are in compliance, but also serving the direct and most timely needs of the students.

Friedman: In addition to lack of access to care, students become non-compliant over the summer, as new requirements kick in for new grades. And parents have a hard time navigating the process.

Katrina PavlikKatrina Pavlik

Pavlik: The families that have the trouble are families that may not know about available insurance for their families. They may not have transportation. They may not be able to take off of work to take their child to the doctor. So their schools have really stepped in to help those families access resources where it's most convenient which is in the school.

Friedman: Galpin says she's planning to make mobile health visits and trips to clinics a regular thing.

She already has three visits from the St. Bernard health van scheduled for next school year.

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