More than 1,000 students in the Marianas need to update their vaccinations

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MORE than 1,000 students in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands are not up to date with their immunization as of November.

This according to CNMI Public Health Immunization Program manager Jeremy Sasamoto who said some 1,038 students need to have their immunization shots.

“These students will be given two-week notices to get up to date with required immunizations or risk suspension from school until required immunizations are met,” Sasamoto warned.

He said they will conduct cycle 2 immunization shots in schools in January next year.

The Public Health Immunization Program is almost done with cycle 1, where they tried to update the vaccinations of about 13,000 students in the CNMI.

According to Sasamoto, his office is sending out letters to parents, through schools, to inform that their child is not up to date with the required immunizations.

“It is important that we enforce our public health immunization laws so that our children, and our community as a whole, are protected against multiple vaccine preventable diseases,” Sasamoto said.

In his letter to parents, Sasamoto also cited Public Law 6-10 which mandates “every parent of a child already enrolled in a Commonwealth school public or nonpublic, whose child’s health records show incomplete immunizations, shall be required to initiate remedial action within two weeks following notifications of the immunization deficiency.”

Sasamoto admitted that one of the struggles that he has is to raise awareness to educate schools and parents about the law.

“When I started here, nine years ago, this law was not enforced and there were actually schools that have no idea of the existence of the law,” Sasamoto recalled.

Nevertheless, Sasamoto added that school vaccinations have really improved in the last three years.

“But there are still some schools that are not so strict with this and even though they have not have shots, or health certificates, they still enroll them. They shouldn’t do it. It makes it harder on us because later we have to come after them.”

If a student has had all the immunization shots, the Public Health will issue health certificate that would be valid for one year, Sasamoto said.

He also said all children shall have all vaccinations or immunizations, including but not limited to diphtheria; pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella, and hepatitis B.

In citing the same law, Sasamoto noted that the continued noncompliance of completing required immunizations and tuberculin test within the three-month period after provisional entry into school, the parents shall be subject to punishment by fine not to exceed USD$100.

“Unfortunately, some students are not really taking advantage of the free immunization. A lot of the older ones [students in middle schools and high schools], when they read the letter they just throw it away and it never reached home,” he said.

Sasamoto explained that they are actively doing immunizations, especially in schools, because “it takes only one person to start an outbreak. The school setting – air-conditioned, close room—that is just asking for it.”

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