OGDEN -- Some parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are feeling frustrated and angry about the way they were notified of a whooping cough outbreak in a city school last week.
Over 65 Mount Ogden Junior High students were sent home for being under-immunized or on immunization exemption for personal, religious or medical reasons Oct. 24 when one student case of whooping cough was confirmed. On Friday evening it was announced students on immunization exemption can't come back to school until Nov. 14 because two more cases have been confirmed in the school. The Weber/Morgan Health Department now deems the situation an outbreak.
This is a frustration for Robert Sweeten and his children who attend Mount Ogden Junior High School. His students are on immunization exemption, so he has been home-schooling them for the past week and will continue to do so for the next two weeks.
"For them, school is a very social thing and they are really missing that," Sweeten said.
What frustrates him is the attitude that many have about people who do not choose to have their children immunized. "They think the ones who are not immunized are the bad apples."
Sweeten has read studies showing that immunized kids can also contract whooping cough. One of the recent cases in Ogden involves an immunized student.
He is not unhappy with the way the school handled the situation, but said the school has worked really well with helping student get their work. But he still feels those not immunized are treated like "social outcasts."
Superintendent Brad Smith encouraged students to be vaccinated to alleviate the problem of an outbreak of a dangerous, infectious disease.
"I firmly believe in immunizations," Smith said. He acknowledged that the possible side effects are "miniscule" in comparison to the problems not being vaccinated can cause. He said he respects the right of those who choose for religious or personal reasons not to be vaccinated, but there are problems that stem from that choice.
"Those who believe (in immunizations) are at risk from those who don't," Smith said. Those who don't believe in the immunizations are paying a high price now in regard to education, he said.
Students who are on immunization exemption will be permitted to go back to school on Nov. 14 unless more cases are found. Every time a new case is found, students exempted from immunizations will not be permitted back to school for 21 days from the last outbreak.
The school sent a recorded message to all students' homes Friday evening informing parents of the outbreak and telling parents that if their students can't return until Nov. 14, parents would be permitted to come and gather work on Tuesday.
Sheila Favero has eight children. She immunized her first seven children, but opted to not immunize her youngest child for personal reasons. Her child did receive the TDaP booster last spring to protect him before going to Scout camp, but it was his first immunization. Her child was sent home but was able to return to school once Favero turned in his forms. She also opted to put him on the antibiotic required for all under-immunized or non-immunized students.
She's frustrated by the way the district initially handled the situation.
"A call should have gone to every parent when they knew about the first case," Favero said. There is still a 15 percent chance that those immunized could contract the disease and we could be watching for warning signs, she said.
Students also felt in the dark about what was going on when they were initially called out of class on Monday.
"They wouldn't tell the kids at first and they wondered if they had done something wrong," Favero said.
District spokeswoman Jeanette Pascoe said the district followed all proper protocols and with the latest outbreak decided to do a phone call home to all parents to keep everyone aware.