Arundel officials seek extension of immunization deadline

City has more than 4,000 students without documents but hasn't applied for extension

  • Vaccines awaiting children at the Parole Health Center in Annapolis. Children attending public schools are required to get vaccinated and bring proof to the schools.
Vaccines awaiting children at the Parole Health Center in Annapolis.… (By Joshua McKerrow / Baltimore…)
September 15, 2014|By Joe Burris | The Baltimore Sun

With more than 700 students failing to show proof of vaccinations required for the new school year as of Monday, Anne Arundel County school officials say they'll apply this week for an extension of a state deadline for required immunizations.

The Maryland State Department of Education is implementing new guidelines that require students entering kindergarten and seventh grade to prove that their vaccinations are up to date.

Kindergarten students are required to have had two doses of chickenpox vaccine. Seventh-graders must have had one dose of the vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) and one dose of a meningitis vaccine.

Under the state's guidelines, a student who lacks proof of immunization and fails to request a medical or religious exemption must be held out of school.

Arundel is not the only local jurisdiction with students who haven't complied.

School officials in Baltimore said the city system had 4,300 students without immunization documents at the end of last week, but they expected the number to drop and have not applied for an extension.

Baltimore County officials said 300 students needed proof of vaccination as of Monday, but they, too, expected that number to fall.

Harford County officials had fewer than 250 students without documentation. Carroll County schools spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said the district had "very few students" without required immunizations.

Howard County school officials did not respond to requests for information.

Proof that students have vaccinations was due 20 days after the start of school. For Arundel, that was Monday. Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said more than 700 students still needed to show proof of vaccination, 400 of them seventh-graders.

The county health department set up a clinic Monday at Meade Middle School. Immunizations were also being made available at Glen Burnie and Parole health centers Monday through Wednesday and again Friday.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told state education officials Friday that districts without immunization documents for more than 250 students could request a one-time, 45-day extension.

Officials have until the end of this week to apply. Systems that intend to seek an extension can keep students in school even if they lack proof of immunization.

After receiving an extension, school systems are required to submit a plan by Oct. 2 outlining how they'll identify students who lack immunizations and how they'll work with local health departments to get them immunized.

They are also required to issue a progress report by Oct. 17 and be in full compliance by Nov. 3, Sharfstein said in a letter to school officials.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Kelcie Pegher contributed to this article.

jburris@baltsun.com

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