Nearly 200 Unvaccinated Children Sent Home From Schools Across North Dakota

Nearly 200 children who returned to school unvaccinated have been sent home across North Dakota following repeated warnings from health officials.

The North Dakota Department of Health reminded parents in the summer that they need to keep their children up to date with all the state-required shots before October 1 in order for them to be allowed back.

However, schools across the state reported that dozens of children still did not have their full immunizations.

Fargo Public Schools said they excluded 18 pupils from school for not having the required shots, with 42 sent home in West Fargo. Bismarck Public School District said 50 students were excluded and Grand Forks School District noted as many as 79 kids not having had their full required vaccinations, reports West Fargo Pioneer.

Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said the district gave parents plenty of notice warning them about the cutoff point.

"We had taken multiple effort to communicate with parents beforehand and let them know that if they don't have their vaccine by October 1, then starting October 2, per state statute, that they wouldn't be included," he told Valley News Live.

One of the new required shots for school children is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds entering the 11th and 12th grades this year. The vaccine will protect against meningococcal disease, a serious bacterial infection that can cause meningitis and "possibly lead to death or permanent disability within hours of first symptoms," Lexie Barber, epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health, said in a news release.

North Dakota Department of Health Epidemiologist Brenton Nesemeier said the disease can also have devastating nonfatal consequences. "You can have lifelong effects like neurological damage or loss of limbs. It can be pretty scary if you're exposed," he told the West Fargo Pioneer.

According to WDAY, Fargo Public Schools said all but four of the 18 students who were not allowed back to school on October 1 have since returned because they have been or are scheduled to receive shots.

Parents can ask for exemptions from the shots for moral or religious reasons. Children who have been excluded usually return within three days, according to West Fargo Public Schools.

Last October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that North Dakota's immunization rates for school children, which was once among the 10 lowest states', has now risen to around the national median.

Figures showed the immunization rate for measles, mumps and rubella reached 93.8 percent—ranked 27th in the country along with four other states—compared with the national median of 94 percent, reported Inforum.