Many chil­dren with­out vac­cines

Area schools will bar stu­dents who have not had im­mu­niza­tions

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica L. Green

Bal­ti­more school of­fi­cials are warn­ing par­ents that their chil­dren will be pro­hib­ited from at­tend­ing school start­ing next week if they have not re­ceived im­mu­niza­tions for cer­tain dis­eases.

The pol­icy could mean that thou­sands of stu­dents will be barred from classes.

Neigh­bor­ing Bal­ti­more County barred hun­dreds of chil­dren from school this week af­ter they failed to meet a Tues­day dead­line for re­quired vac­ci­na­tions.

Of­fi­cials in other dis­tricts reported vary­ing num­bers of stu­dents out of com­pli­ance.

Bal­ti­more schools CEOSonja San­telises said Mon­day is the dead­line for city stu­dents’ vac­ci­na­tion records to be up­dated.

She said that stu­dents who fail to meet the dead­line risk los­ing learn­ing time.

“I can­not stress too strongly how im­por­tant this is,” San­telises told the city school board Tues­day night.

The district found roughly 5,000 im­mu­niza­tion records that were out of com­pli­ance this week.

But of­fi­cials said the num­ber had dropped to about 3,800 by Wed­nes­day morn­ing. San­telises

“In a lot of these sit­u­a­tions the stu­dents have the im­mu­niza­tions; we just haven’t re­ceived the records from the par­ents.”

Of­fi­cials launched an ag­gres­sive cam­paign this year to spread the word about new re­quire­ments for stu­dents in kinder­garten, first, sec­ond, and sev­enth through ninth grades.

School of­fi­cials said that the high­est lev­els of non-com­pli­ance were found among chil­dren in kinder­garten, and ninth and sev­enth grades.

This year’s re­quire­ments for en­try into kinder­garten, first and sec­ond grades in­clude two doses of Vari­cella vac­cine, which pro­tects against chicken pox.

Stu­dents en­ter­ing sev­enth through ninth grades are re­quired to have one dose of Tdap vac­cine, which pro­tects against the bac­te­rial dis­eases tetanus, diph­the­ria and per­tus­sis.

They are also re­quired to have one dose of meningo­coc­cal vac­cine, which pro­tects against menin­gi­tis.

Of­fi­cials said that most stu­dents were miss­ing Tdap and meningo­coc­cal vac­cines.

They rec­om­mended par­ents get their chil­dren im­mu­nized at lo­cal phar­ma­cies, or at schools with on-site health cen­ters where the shots are avail­able free.

State law al­lows school dis­tricts to of­fer fam­i­lies a 20-day grace pe­riod from the first day of school to pro­vide im­mu­niza­tion records.

The num­ber of vac­ci­na­tions that stu­dents re­quire de­pends on age and grade.

In Bal­ti­more County, school of­fi­cials said that nearly 600 stu­dents were ex­cluded from school this week be­cause their records were not up to date.

The vast ma­jor­ity of stu­dents were mid­dle and high school­ers who need the Tdap and the meningo­coc­cal vac­cine, county schools spokesman My­chael Dick­er­son said.

A lit­tle more than 100 ele­men­tary school stu­dents were out of com­pli­ance, he said. These were pri­mar­ily pre-kinder­gart­ners and kinder­gart­ners who were start­ing school for the first time.

“We are work­ing closely with the health depart­ment to pro­vide vac­cines to stu­dents who re­main ex­cluded from school,” Dick­er­son said.

In Anne Arun­del County 89 pub­lic school stu­dents were out of com­pli­ance on Wed­nes­day, the dead­line for ex­clu­sion from school, ac­cord­ing to the county health depart­ment, which runs the schools’ health pro­gram.

In Har­ford County, the num­ber of stu­dents who have not been im­mu­nized is “a mov­ing tar­get right now; we do not have a num­ber,” said Joseph Li­cata, the district’s chief of ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He said that stu­dents who have not been im­mu­nized have been pro­hib­ited from at­tend­ing classes in the past, but he did not say whether any stu­dents had been barred this week.

Filipa Gomes, di­rec­tor of health ser­vices for Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools, said she did not have an ex­act count of stu­dents who are not vac­ci­nated, but she be­lieved the num­ber to be fewer than 40.

“In a lot of these sit­u­a­tions the stu­dents have the im­mu­niza­tions; we just haven’t re­ceived the records from the par­ents,” she said.

Filipa Gomes of Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools

“Once they got the call from the school prin­ci­pal, ‘We need your records,’ all of a sud­den a lot of them came in.”

Ker­rie Waga­man, the Howard County sys­tem’s co­or­di­na­tor of health ser­vices, could not say how many stu­dents needed to pro­vide vac­ci­na­tion in­for­ma­tion, but said the num­ber was likely low.

The county re­quires stu­dents or par­ents to pro­vide schools with records prov­ing vac­ci­na­tion on the first day of school, or con­fir­ma­tion of an ap­point­ment to com­plete the im­mu­niza­tions within 20 cal­en­dar days of the first day of school.

Stu­dents who do not meet the re­quire­ment are barred from class.

“Par­ents can tell us ver­bally that they have an ap­point­ment,” Waga­man said. “It doesn’t have to be in writ­ing, be­cause it’s kind of on the honor sys­tem.”

Ad­min­is­tra­tors typ­i­cally re­move these stu­dents from class on the first day of school and put them in a cafe­te­ria, me­dia cen­ter or health room while their par­ents are be­ing called.

“I find that the more firm you are from the first day of school with im­ple­ment­ing the pol­icy, com­pli­ance with it be­comes more con­sis­tent across all lev­els,” Waga­man said.

The Bal­ti­more health depart­ment has been pro­vid­ing vac­ci­na­tions at clin­ics through­out the city for the past sev­eral weeks.

The To Im­mu­nize Kids Ev­ery­where clin­ics pro­vide vac­ci­na­tions to fam­i­lies who don’t have health in­sur­ance, a med­i­cal provider or Med­i­caid.

Health depart­ment spokesman Sean Naron said the health depart­ment works closely with the school sys­tem to make sure stu­dents are im­mu­nized, in part be­cause many vac­cines are ad­min­is­tered over sev­eral years.

“This may seem like a sprint, but it’s re­ally a marathon,” Naron said.

“We think we’re con­tin­u­ing a good track record.”

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