Unvaccinated kids a concern in chicken pox rise

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 20:40:39-05

The Pinellas County Health Department is trying to stop a chicken pox cluster from spreading at an elementary school.

School officials confirm eight cases have been identified at Plumb Elementary School in Clearwater. The majority of those affected had vaccination exemptions, either for religious and medical reasons.

Now nearly 20 unvaccinated students are being told to stay home from school for three weeks.

"They're being told to stay home until February 15, which is the 21-day period of infection," Health Department spokeswoman Maggie Hall said.

Hall said the best way to fight the disease is by getting vaccinated.

"It provides up to 80 percent protection against varicella (chicken pox)," Hall said. "And if they do get it, the symptoms are much milder."

"If they're not vaccinating their children, they're going to cause other people to get sick and it's unfair," said Amanda Tavernia, the mother of a second grader. "If it's a religious belief, maybe you should look into home schooling your children."

"I'm a firm believer in, if you're not going to vaccinate them, expose them," one grandmother said as she was picking up her two grandchildren. She says both of them are vaccinated.

Cases of chicken pox have been on the rise in Pinellas County. In 2012, there were 16. Last year, there were 38. At the same time, Hall said more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children.

If a parent does decide to get the first round of vaccines, they will be allowed back in school.