- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

Thousands of uninoculated public school students in the District are in danger of being barred from their classrooms and held in auditoriums Monday.

As of yesterday, parents of about 6,000 students still had not taken their children to be immunized at more than 20 locations throughout the District. The clinics have been running nonstop for two weeks in an effort to meet a Jan. 25 deadline imposed by the Board of Education last November.

During that time, only 15,000 students got shots of the estimated 21,000 students who needed them.

Talk yesterday off giving parents more time was quickly quashed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz.

"We're going with the deadline. … We have got to keep our commitment to the children. We cannot expose the immunized children to possible harm," Mrs. Cafritz said after a late-afternoon meeting with the mayor to discuss the immunization deadline.

Children not immunized by Monday morning will be ushered to their schools' auditoriums, and their parents will be notified.

"Parents will be called and given instructions as to the closest [immunization clinic]. Then, the children can return to school. Children whose parents do not pick them up will be kept in the auditorium and given homework," Mrs. Cafritz said.

Mrs. Cafritz told The Washington Times that the board will look into whether the Health Department could immunize students without parents' permission.

The school board vowed on Nov. 29 that no child would be allowed into class until they received shots for DPT (diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus), OPV (oral polio vaccine), MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), HIB (hemophilus influenza type B), HepB (hepatitis B) and varicella immunizations if they have not had chickenpox.

Yesterday, students were given a half-day off so parents could take them to any of the clinics that have been operating since Jan. 7.

The D.C. public schools and the D.C. Department of Health waged an all-out educational campaign earlier this month, including handbills distributed on the streets and public-service announcements on television and radio, to alert parents about the importance of immunizations and the deadline.

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