For 4-year-old Madison and her mom Diamond, getting ready to start school for the first time isn’t just a trip to the store, it’s also a visit to the doctors.
“We got the immunization shots. We got her all registered for school, and now we’re here to get school supplies.” Said Diamond.
In Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, immunizations are mandated by law.
But last year in Prince George’s County, 6,300 kids weren’t immunized by the first day of school.
“Get that vaccination. Get that proof, because we want to make sure that all those requirements are met, and that students don’t miss any unnecessary time,” said Prince George’s County Public School’s Public Information Officer John White.
By December 2016, the district had 99 percent compliance. Just 517 of more than 130 thousand kids still hadn’t gotten their mandatory vaccines.
Kids have 20 days to get up to date. Parents who don’t get those forms in can face truancy charges, including up to eleven days of jail time.
Prince George’s County doesn’t track how many parents choose to homeschool or claim a religious exemption. One parent said she keeps her kids at home, in part, because her son had a bad reaction at two months old.
“Mild brain swelling," she said. “And while it’s listed as an acceptable side effect, to me it’s not acceptable at all. It’s not the primary reason that we homeschool certainly there are other reasons, but that is a factor.”
Lawmakers and the Center for disease control say science is on the side of vaccines for public safety.
Measles, which was nearly eradicated in the US by 2000, killed 130,000 people and can cause brain damage that lingers for years.
Diamond said she’s happy to get her kids vaccinated.
"Children, adults, need to be protected. That’s what it’s in place for," she said.
Prince George’s County is holding a number of free clinics this upcoming weekend- to help make sure kids are ready for school.
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