Deadline for vaccinations passes

school closed to some

January 23, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - As many as 26 Washington County Public Schools students will be excluded from school today for failure to comply with a state vaccination requirement.

Sixth- to ninth-graders were required to be vaccinated for hepatitis B and chickenpox by Jan. 2 or risk not being allowed at school. Students who had appointments scheduled for the shots by Saturday were allowed at school through Friday.

Those who have not been vaccinated will be kept from attending school despite months of warnings about the approaching deadline.

Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction Donna Hanlin said the students had not been vaccinated for a "variety" of reasons.

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.

Hanlin said that officials believed on Friday that 34 students would be excluded from school Monday. As of Monday afternoon, that number had dropped to 26 students expected to be absent today.


Statewide, about 12,000 students were not compliant as of Friday, said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the State Department of Education.

Reinhard said late Monday that more than 2,600 students were sent home from school in 12 of the state's 24 jurisdictions. Several systems did not have classes Monday because it is the end of the semester. That number does not count noncompliant students who didn't show up at school.

Washington County officials said the number of absent students likely will drop in the next few days as students are vaccinated.

Nineteen students went to a clinic at South Hagerstown High School during the school day Monday for the shots, Hanlin said. She said the school was chosen to host the clinic because it is where the majority of the unvaccinated students are enrolled.

Several vaccination clinics have been held at the Washington County Health Department.

Officials say they are working with the health department to make sure the remaining students are vaccinated so they may return to school.

"If they stay out of school for too many days, it becomes an issue of truancy," Mowen said.

Officials have said they might use the court system to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. Hanlin said before that option is explored officials are "trying to find out what the road blocks are" to being vaccinated.

Know More

The issue: A new Maryland law requires students in prekindergarten through ninth grade to be vaccinated for hepatitis B and chickenpox. Students were excluded from school if they did not have the vaccines or an appointment for the vaccines by Jan. 20.

What's new: As many as 26 Washington County Public Schools students will be excluded from school today for failing to comply with the requirement.

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

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