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Students get another shot to comply with vaccine regulation

December 11, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Many of the county's students have only about two weeks left to get required vaccinations.

Those students without the vaccinations for Hepatitis B and chickenpox will not be allowed at school starting Jan. 20, 2007, Washington County Public Schools officials said.

As of Dec. 4, school officials said 27 percent of the county's sixth- to ninth-graders (1,767 students) were not compliant with one or both of the new regulations.

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

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The vaccinations were to be enforced in September, but an emergency regulation extended the deadline to Jan. 1, 2007.

In May, about 3,300 students still needed the vaccinations, The Herald-Mail reported.

Last week, school officials said 16 percent of the county's sixth- to ninth-graders (1,074 students), still needed to show proof of the chickenpox vaccine or documentation of having had chickenpox. Five percent needed to show proof of receiving the Hepatitis B vaccination, and 6 percent needed to show proof of both vaccinations.

"This is still a significant number of students who could be excluded from school," said Cheryl Strong, director of student services.

Data on the total number of students in all grades who still need the vaccines was not immediately available, officials said. But the majority of the students not complying are in grades six to nine, they said.

Rhonda Reid, school health program manager for the Washington County Health Department, said the state extended the deadline because many students had not received the vaccinations.

She said officials have sent several letters to parents about the requirement, placed advertisements on television and radio, and put up posters in the schools.

"I don't know why we don't have 100 percent compliance," Reid said.

Strong said she hoped the numbers don't reflect reality, and that students have been vaccinated but just need to provide the paperwork.

"This is pretty serious," she said. "This is a legal requirement. We're hoping that parents realize this is a pretty serious thing."

She described the number of students who could be kept out of school as "significant."

"It's not OK," Strong said of the number of students who have not been vaccinated. "As far as I'm concerned, unless it's zero percent it's still an issue, because we want students to be in school for instruction."

Reid said that not getting the vaccinations would pose a potential health risk. There are about 80,000 new cases of Hepatitis B in the United States each year, she said. The virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV, she said.

Reid said that chickenpox can be very serious in children and adults.

Ellen Hayes, supervisor of human resources and teacher staffing for the school system, said there is no proof of vaccinations required for school system employees. Hepatitis shots are available for employees who feel they are at risk of coming in contact with bloodborne pathogens.

Students can receive the necessary vaccinations at an immunization clinic Thursday at the Washington County Health Department. The clinic will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For details, call 240-313-3392.

Reid said the cost is $10 per vaccination.




If you go



What: Immunization clinic for Hepatitis B and chickenpox.

When: Thursday, Dec. 14, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Washington County Health Department, 1302 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown.

Contact: Call the health department at 240-313-3244.

Cost: $10 per vaccine.

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