- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

D.C. officials have issued the warning “No shots, no school” to ensure that all 60,799 students have vaccinations before classes begin next month.

“You cannot go to school without immunization,” said Vera Jackson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Health.

Officials estimate that 5,000 D.C. public school students are still without the mandatory shots. They said they will know more when schools start Sept. 1.

The school system’s ambitious effort to immunize students began, in part, three years ago when a large number of students were without shots. The program has tried a variety of strategies, including players on the Washington Mystics pro basketball team attending a school rally, free shots at clinics and health fairs, and the threat of a $500 fine and five days in jail for parents whose children have not been inoculated.

In December 2001, about 6,000 students were without the shots and were sent home for 10 days. Only three students returned without proof of being vaccinated. The parents were charged with violating the law, but more details are not available because the court records are closed.

Dr. Karyn Berry of the Department of Health said the school system had 11,000 students without vaccinations in August 2003, which means that the number was reduced by more than 50 percent by this summer.

The required shots are DPT (for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), OPV (oral polio vaccine), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), HIB (haemophilus influenza type B), HepB (hepatitis B), and varicella immunizations, if students have not had chicken pox.

Health and public school officials in Alexandria and Arlington, as well as Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Prince William counties said yesterday that only a small number of students were without the shots and that they had few problems with parents or guardians not abiding by requirements.

“We do a lot of publicity about that,” said Irene Cromer, spokeswoman for Prince William County Public Schools. “We send out a lot of news releases. It has certainly not been a problem.”

In Prince George’s County, teachers have orientation meetings this week during which they will review rosters showing whether students have had their shots.

Dr. Berry said monitoring whether students have their shots has one sure benefit.

“Historically, one of the best ways for children to get health checks [is] through the schools,” she said.

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