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DPS is helping its migrant students catch up on required vaccinations

Colorado's largest school district is falling behind its neighbors on required shots for kids.

DENVER — Colorado's largest school district is falling behind its neighbors when it comes to required shots for kids.

With lower vaccination compliance, there's concern that some children could be left vulnerable if and when disease spreads. That's why Denver Public Schools (DPS) said it is taking action to get vaccination numbers up.

"You get vaccinated, it helps protect you against all kinds of different illnesses," said Scott Pribble, Denver Public Schools director of external communications. "You hope you never need it, but it's there in case you do," 

Data from the state shows 91.9% of Colorado K-12th grade students are vaccinated for preventable diseases, from the mumps to tetanus and even chickenpox. But in Denver, that vaccination compliance rate drops.

"With the 2022-23 school year, Denver Public Schools was over 82% in compliance with our vaccination rate," Pribble said.

Part of the lower compliance number comes from not all of the data getting to the state on time, Pribble said. Another, bigger piece of the puzzle comes from migrant children enrolling in DPS who are missing some shots or are behind on their vaccinations.

"We are finding that there are some people who come to our country that they come from a place where varicella or other vaccinations are not required," Pribble said. "The other issue we run into is sometimes, they come without their papers, so we don't know what vaccinations they've had."

Since the start of the school year, 2,000 migrant children have enrolled in DPS. New students are required to show vaccination records to start school, Pribble said.

RELATED: 2,000 migrant children have enrolled in DPS this school year, district is hiring to meet those needs

"But there is a little bit of a caveat when you have a homeless population and may not have records or may not be up to date on their vaccinations," he said. "And our migrant population can fit into that because they're living in temporary shelters or in between housing."

According to Denver Health, varicella, or chickenpox, is one of the illnesses their providers have diagnosed recently in some migrant families.

Denver Human Services reports they're monitoring 16 cases of chickenpox – including 10 cases in children – across migrant shelters. Those with the illness are quarantined to stop transmission.

> Click here for data on immunizations in Colorado schools and child cares

Pribble said that thankfully, DPS hasn't had any outbreaks of illness, just a few cases. But anytime people aren't vaccinated, there's a concern something could spread. That's why getting vaccinated is so important and why DPS is helping families get their shots, he said.

"We are so committed that we have been paying for transportation to get people to our vaccination clinics, providing those services for free, because it's so important to make sure that as many students and staff members as we can are vaccinated against any communicable disease," Pribble said. 

DPS has hosted six vaccination clinics so far this year to help families and kids get their required vaccinations. They're also partnering with Denver Health to get kids and families caught up on their shots.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, Denver Health will host a free vaccine clinic to help migrant children get vaccinated against chickenpox, as well as offering COVID-19 and flu shots for the whole family. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Montbello Recreation Center, 15555 E. 53rd Ave. in Denver.

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