- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
School administrators are concerned about having to exclude students from the beginning of the new school year because of parental oversight.
New requirements for student immunizations from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will take effect next school year.
The new requirements contained in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) include new and additional immunizations for incoming kindergarten and seventh-grade students. If students do not receive these requirements by the 20th day of school for the new school year, they will not be allowed to attend class.
“According to the law, if students don’t meet these requirements by Friday, Sept. 5, we have to exclude them from school,” said Donna Nichols, supervisor of student services and school health for Calvert County Public Schools.
The requirements are that incoming students entering kindergarten need two doses of Varicella, a chickenpox vaccine, in addition to the hepatitis B, rubella, mumps, measles, HIB, polio and Tdap vaccines already required.
For incoming seventh-grade students, a single dose of the Tdap vaccine — combined protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — is needed, in addition to a single dose of the meningococcal vaccine. These two requirements stem from an increase in recent outbreaks of meningitis and pertussis, Nichols said.
According to Student Services’ records, 1,269 students may be entering seventh grade in Calvert County Public Schools next year, and so far, only about 120 of those students have the required immunizations.
The Calvert County Health Department hosted a free immunization clinic for new student immunization purposes in June, and it was poorly attended, Nichols said, with only about eight people showing up.
Another clinic will be held at the health department from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14.
With enough vaccines for 350 people prepared for the date, Erica Hall, immunization coordinator for the Calvert County Health Department, said she hopes the clinic is heavily attended.
“We do hope a lot of people show up because it’s free vaccines,” Hall said. “[Students] have to have it for school, so of course we would ultimately want children to see their own provider. However, if they don’t have a medical home or they don’t have a medical provider, we would like to see them here.”
Nichols said though exclusions have had to happen in the past, students are usually not out of school for more than one day because the parent is able to “miraculously” get the correct vaccines quickly after the deadline date.
“It’s really not necessarily the child who is at fault here. We try not to punish a student for something the parent didn’t do,” Nichols said, adding that in the case a student must be excluded from school for an extended period of time, school work would be sent home with the student.
Nichols and Hall agree everything is being done to help avoid that situation.
In addition to the health department’s free clinics, Nichols said she has been spreading word within the schools since the spring, among school nurses and principals, and sending information home to students.
“We would rather people arrive to school in compliance. However, we know not everyone will do that, so we will be prepared,” Hall said. “… Our goal is to make sure no child is excluded.”