- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

D.C. school and health officials yesterday scrambled to vaccinate thousands of students who had not met Friday's deadline to be immunized or be turned away from classes.
By late afternoon, 3,100 students had not been immunized down from 21,000 three weeks ago, when city health and school officials announced they would strictly enforce the District's immunization requirement for schools. Yesterday, officials announced that 14 of the city's 147 public schools have achieved 100 percent compliance for immunization.
"We're not at the Super Bowl stage yet," school Superintendent Paul L. Vance said at a news conference yesterday in front of Jefferson Junior High School in Southwest the first school in the city to reach 100 percent compliance.
Mr. Vance was accompanied by the school's marching band.
Many parents got phone calls yesterday from school administrators telling them their children had to been taken out of class and put into a separate rooms to be picked up and taken to one of two clinics opened in the city for mass immunization of students.
Mr. Vance said officials are driving to homes of students who still have not been immunized, adding that the 3,100 students not allowed in school yesterday will not be allowed in classrooms until they prove they have gotten their shots. If students have not complied within 10 days, legal action will be taken against their parents for keeping their children out of school for an extended time, he said.
Meanwhile, health and school officials last night operated an all-night clinic at D.C. General Hospital to vaccinate children.
A year ago, the D.C. school board said 41,000 students had incomplete or missing immunization records.
In November, the board decided that after Jan. 25 no students would be allowed into school unless they had 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.
As of Friday, parents of about 6,000 students still had not taken their children to be immunized. Assistant School Superintendent Ralph Neal said of the 3,100 left yesterday, 2,500 were students between seventh and 12th grades.
Students who had signed consent forms from their parents yesterday were taken to a clinic at 1131 Spring Road NW, which was open during the day, or D.C. General, which stayed open until 8 this morning.
More than 1,000 students were immunized late into the night at D.C. General, according to Dr. Michael Richardson, the health department's deputy director of prevention, planning and primary care.
For anyone who didn't make it by 8 a.m., Dr. Richardson said "they can go to any one of several free clinics that are open all the time around the city." For information about those clinics, he said parents should call 800/666-2229.
"We have adequate supplies and we've had a steady flow of kids" coming through D.C. General, Dr. Richardson said, adding that the clinic was immunizing about 70 students per hour throughout the day yesterday.
The majority of students were junior high and high school students. "The older kids get, the less likely they are to be under the parental direction of anyone," Dr. Richardson said.
Many parents criticized schools for not keeping accurate records on immunizations several parents had been told by school officials their children did not have up-to-date shots, but learned from medical records that the shots had been given in the past.
"Parents keep a better record," said Quintus Wade, 35, of Southeast, explaining that medical records showed that his son, Quintus, 12, had the required immunizations although transfer records between two schools in the District had indicated he missed two shots.
The schools should not have waited so long to bar children without immunizations from school, said Majonka Smith, 35, also of Southeast. Schools begin in September and parents should be told then at registration about any immunization shortcomings, she said.
Her daughter, Delishe, 9, is a fourth-grader at Randle Highlands Elementary in Southeast, which had no record of her shots. Yesterday, Delishe got a shot for hepatitis B, "which stung," she said.
Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide