Schools officials say vaccination information was inaccurate

November 30, 1999|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Information provided earlier this month about a new school vaccination requirement for students in Washington County Public Schools was inaccurate, system officials said.

The date that students would be excluded from school was wrong, but was clarified during a Dec. 12 state meeting and locally on Dec. 19.

Washington County Public Schools officials now say that sixth- through ninth-graders will be banned from school beginning Jan. 2 if they don't have required immunizations for hepatitis B or chickenpox by that day or appointments scheduled by Jan. 20.

According to data compiled recently, nearly 10 percent of the school system's sixth- through ninth-graders still need to comply.

Earlier this month, school officials said students wouldn't be allowed at school starting Jan. 20. State and local officials said this was a misinterpretation of information provided about a new requirement.


Statewide, about 50,000 students still need vaccinations, said Donna Mazyck, health services specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education.

About 640 of those students are in Washington County, where 370 students hadn't been vaccinated as of last week for chickenpox, and 145 students need to be vaccinated for hepatitis B, said Cheryl Strong, director of student services. Nearly 130 students still need both vaccinations.

While vaccines against both viruses have been required of students in prekindergarten through fourth grade, next year's rules extend the requirements to students up through ninth grade.

The vaccinations were to be enforced in September, but an emergency regulation extended the deadline to Jan. 1.

"The extended deadline for compliance with this new state law is Jan. 1, so students will only be allowed to re-enter school on Jan. 2 if they show proof of having the immunizations or medical documentation of the chickenpox disease, or provide documentation that they have medical appointments for the needed vaccinations on or before Jan. 20," said Rhonda Reid, school health program manager for the Washington County Health Department.

Reid said several Maryland counties also interpreted the information received from the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene incorrectly.

Mazyck said she wasn't aware of any counties having trouble interpreting the data, but was being proactive at a Dec. 12 meeting when she clarified it for local representatives who were there.

Mazyck said information from the state health department stated that the deadline for compliance was January 2007. Local officials were working from precedent when they interpreted the data to mean students could be at school through Jan. 20.

Reid said letters have been sent to students who don't comply. Appointments for the vaccinations can be made with the Washington County Health Department or with a private physician.

The health department has organized three immunization clinics in January. Parents may call 240-313-3296 to make appointments.

Reid described the turnout at the previous immunization clinics as "fair."

"I wouldn't say it's been a good response," she said. "We did have some openings at our last clinic that people could have brought students. People did not take advantage of that. It really ... all it takes is a phone call to make that appointment."

The Herald-Mail Articles