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No shots, no school

January 03, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - About 50 Washington County students were excluded from school Tuesday or told they could not return today for failing to comply with a new vaccination requirement.

While vaccines for hepatitis B and chickenpox had been required of students in prekindergarten through fourth grade, new guidelines extended the requirements to students through ninth grade. The vaccines were to be enforced in September, but an emergency regulation extended the deadline to Monday.

Parents were told that students needed to have the vaccines or proof of an appointment by Tuesday or risk being excluded from school.

Assistant Supervisor for Secondary Instruction Donna Hanlin said about 330 sixth- to ninth-grade students were not compliant as of Tuesday afternoon, meaning that they had not been vaccinated for either Hepatitis B or chickenpox.

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About one-third of those students were absent Tuesday.

Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said the exact number of students excluded from school was unavailable, but said about 50 were excluded or should have been excluded.

Some students were unable to be sent home because school officials could not contact a parent or guardian to take the students home.

Those students were told they could not return today.

Hanlin said that he was pleased with the level of compliance in Washington County and commended parents for cooperating.

In May 2006, about 3,300 students needed the vaccines.

In December, school officials said that 1,074 students, or 16 percent of the county's sixth- to ninth-graders needed to show proof of having had chickenpox or the vaccine for the disease.

Later that month, the school system reported that 370 students had not been vaccinated for chickenpox and 145 students needed hepatitis B vaccinations, school officials said at the time. Nearly 130 students needed both vaccinations.

On Tuesday, that number had been reduced to 330 students without vaccinations, which is about 5 percent of the county's sixth- to ninth-graders.

Mowen said administrators and school nurses spent much of Tuesday on the phone with parents explaining the vaccination requirements and urging them to make appointments.

"You had parents hanging up and calling physicians, faxing documents later in the day," she said.

Mowen said the school system will continue to reach out to those students not in compliance.

"We have resources we would use, including the court system, to make sure that parents are in compliance," she said.




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The issue: A new Maryland law requires students in prekindergarten through ninth grade to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B and chickenpox. The vaccines had been required for only prekindergarten through fourth grade.

What's new: Some students were excluded from school Tuesday for not complying with the vaccination requirements. About 330 sixth- to ninth-graders did not have the vaccines Tuesday.

Of those, about 50 were sent home or told they could not go to school today.

What's next: School and Washington County Health Department officials will be working to ensure that students receive the required vaccinations.

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