Chickenpox case prompts in-school vaccinations


Alyssa Charboneau

Health department administered chickenpox vaccines to students and staff in October using six stations with set-ups shown here.


After Florida made national news when the first reported death of the flu season was an unvaccinated child, health officials have been encouraging the public to get flu vaccines. Properly vaccinating the student population was a recent focus at the school after a student was diagnosed with varicella.

On October 2, a parent called and informed the office that their child had been recently diagnosed with varicella, more commonly known as chickenpox. Following this, assistant principal Missy Jones contacted the county health department. The county then spoke to the parents and confirmed that the school received the correct information.

The school’s 3, 392 students received a letter the afternoon of October 3, stating that a student had been diagnosed with chickenpox and was removed from the premises.  Following the first letter, a second one was given to those students missing their first or second chickenpox vaccination.

According to Barbara Bateman, nursing director of the health department, who is obligated to comply with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),  “To prevent chickenpox, children usually receive the first dose at age 1 and the second dose at age 4.” Chickenpox is much more severe to adults than young children.  This is why they receive the vaccinations at a young age.

“Out of the 250 additional letters that were sent out, only 18 students and five staff members got vaccinated,” Jones said.

Early childhood education specialist Barbara Schneck said, “Preschools would not even allow a child into their schools without being fully vaccinated.”

When children or teens receive vaccinations at the doctor’s office, they usually receive a consent form for parents or legal guardians to sign. At West Broward Pediatrics, for example, the form asks if anyone is pregnant in the home who has never had chickenpox or the vaccine.  They also ask about infants younger than 2 months in the home because they are too young to be vaccinated. Students who received the second letter received a similar questionnaire.

According to Natalie Lobo, The RN supervisor at school, “Even if students do get properly vaccinated, they are still at risk for shingles.”

Lobo also stated that “vaccines are not a black and white issue. We don’t exactly know all of the possible effects of vaccinations.”

Some parents still contemplate whether or not to vaccinate their child, claiming it will cause autism or worse.

Brandi Ludwig, a former Western High student said, “ I do not believe in vaccination unless it is absolutely necessary; my newborn niece had a near death experience due to her first rounds of vaccination.” 

Other parents support a full schedule of vaccines.

Nicole Barkovich, mother of junior Max Barkovich said, “Vaccination is completely necessary because they fight infections and kill off harmful diseases.”

To assist students and families in preparing for the new season, the school offered free flu shots on November 1.