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November 13, 2012

Hundreds face chickenpox exclusion

Students not ‘optimally immunized’ will be excluded from schools for 21 days

TERRE HAUTE — Hundreds of Vigo County School Corp. students face exclusion from classes today if they have not been “optimally immunized” against chickenpox, Superintendent Dan Tanoos said Monday.

Students must be optimally immunized, produce records they’ve been immunized or have documentation that they’ve previously had chickenpox.

Optimal immunization means  individuals who have had one dose need a second. If they haven’t been immunized, they need at least one dose.

VCSC staff born after 1980 who are not optimally immunized also are subject to exclusion, officials have said.

Those not properly immunized will be excluded from schools for 21 days from the last documented case at school, per state Department of Health regulations.

“It’s not our decision to make,” Tanoos said. State health officials have determined “we can’t allow them to come to school.”

The county health commissioner recently declared a chickenpox outbreak in Vigo County, and as a result, students and staff need to be optimally immunized.

Tanoos anticipates some children will show up at school and some families “won’t understand it’s not our decision.”

Central office staff will be in schools to assist school staff in handling situations where students come to school and are not optimally  immunized. “If they show up, we must exclude them,” Tanoos said.

School staff also will explain the reason why, and schools will make accommodations for students to be able to do their school work while they remain at home.

But the best option is for students to be immunized [or produce records showing immunization or a previous history of chickenpox] and get back to school as soon as possible, Tanoos said.

“We don’t want them out at all,” he said.

Two chickenpox vaccination clinics were conducted Friday and Saturday, but the numbers immunized fell short of goals.

A total of 694 were immunized at those clinics, but officials said up to 1,000 VCSC students and 276 staff needed to be immunized. Saturday’s clinic also was open to children who are not VCSC students.

Whether exclusion requirements might affect private schools or child care facilities “is something we’ll talk about [today]” with state health officials, said Joni Wise, Vigo County health department administrator.

She did not believe child care facilities would be affected. “This is such a huge community and there are so many day cares not licensed, it would be hard to police that,” Wise said. “The only thing we can do is strongly recommend that children be optimally immunized and that they do self-exclusion.”

Amy McClain, St. Patrick’s School principal, said the school is working to ensure students are optimally immunized. There has been no chickenpox outbreak at the school and “we’re not excluding,” she said.

If a child is not fully immunized, the school works one-on-one with the family, McClain said.

Gail Gottschling, director of the Indiana State University Child Care Center, has contacted health authorities. The center has had one case of chickenpox.

She’s been told the center does not have to exclude children, but health officials do recommend that children be optimally immunized.

Gottschling has kept families informed about the situation as well as the clinic that was offered Saturday. She also advised them to check with their family physicians.

At the Woods Day Care, there have been no reported cases of chickenpox, said Sister Judith Cervizzi, director. “We are watching it very carefully. If we have someone diagnosed, we’d call the state to see what we should do,” she said. “We’re being cautious, but not alarmist.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or


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