New vaccination rules for children in grades 5 to 9

July 12, 2006|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

Children entering grades five through nine this fall may need to get extra shots this summer to comply with new statewide immunization requirements.

If students don't have documentation that they have received vaccinations for chicken pox and hepatitis B by the first day of school, they will be turned away, said Rhonda Gill, the school system's director of student services.

"They won't be able to attend school. That's what makes it a very serious matter," Gill said.

School system officials are sending letters to parents, and information about the shots needed is available on the county schools' Web site and from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.

Previously, only pupils up to the fourth grade needed vaccinations against chicken pox and hepatitis B, an infection that affects the liver, but a change in state law extends the requirements to older students. As many as 7,500 children in the county could be affected, according to the county department of health, because they have never been vaccinated or have never submitted proof of immunizations to the school system.

Elin Jones, a spokeswoman for the county department of health, said that many children in higher grades have fallen into "a gap" when age requirements shift.

Immunization records - or documentation from a doctor that a child has already had chicken pox - can be submitted to a child's school over the summer or on the first day of school. The hepatitis immunization is a series of three shots given over six months, so students who have begun the series will be allowed to start school.

Parents are encouraged to take children to a family doctor, but children can also be immunized at two walk-in clinics in the county: Parole Health Center, 1950 Drew St., Annapolis, 410-222-7247; or Glen Burnie Health Center, 416 A. St. SW, Glen Burnie, 410-222-6633.

Immunizations are free, but donations of up to $10 are accepted.

A complete list of required immunizations can be obtained from the health department's Web site: www.aahealth.org.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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