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Hundreds of students still not vaccinated

January 11, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Nine Washington County Public Schools students have been absent from school for about one week for failing to comply with a state vaccination requirement.

Another 378 students are not compliant with the law, but have made appointments for needed vaccinations, school officials said Wednesday.

While vaccines for hepatitis B and chickenpox have 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 Jan. 2.

Parents were told that students needed to be vaccinated or have an appointment by that date or risk being excluded from school.

About 19,600 students statewide had not been vaccinated as of Friday, according to a Maryland Department of Education spokesman. He said officials estimated that less than 10 percent, or about 1,960, of those students were being prevented from attending school.

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Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, said that while officials want all students to be in school, she is pleased with the low number of students out of school.

"We're feeling good about the progress being made," she said.

On Jan. 2, 50 students were excluded from school or told they could not return the next day. About 330 sixth- to ninth-grade students were not compliant, meaning they had not been vaccinated for either hepatitis B or chickenpox, school officials said.

The number of students who had not received one or both of the vaccinations but have appointments increased by nearly 30 students since Jan. 2.

That number was expected to fluctuate as students came back from Christmas break, schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said. Additional enrollment in the school system and more students making appointments who did not have them earlier this month also contributed to the increase, she said.

On Jan. 2, about one-third of the students not in compliance with the vaccination requirement were absent, officials said. Hanlin said Wednesday that principals were not reporting that absences were a problem.

She said that a variety of methods were in place to make sure the nine remaining students make appointments to be vaccinated for hepatitis B and chickenpox or show proof of having had the chickenpox virus. These include making phone calls, visiting homes and providing transportation.

The students being excluded from school are being given excused absences, meaning they will be able to make up the work they have missed since last week.

Until they are vaccinated or show proof of an appointment for a vaccination, students will not be allowed in school. Mowen said the school system is looking into the possibility of taking legal action against parents of students who are not taking steps to comply with the requirement.

She said it could become a truancy issue.




Immunization clinics



The following are dates and times for immunization clinics at the Washington County Health Department. The cost is $10 per immunization.

· Today: 1 to 4 p.m.

· Friday: 1 to 6 p.m.

· Jan. 16: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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