Students lacking shots barred 8,600 city children have until Tuesday to get immunizations; Free clinics will open; Most need booster for measles, mumps and rubella


About 8,600 Baltimore schoolchildren who were given until late September to get immunized have not done so and will receive letters Tuesday barring them from classes, a school spokeswoman said yesterday.

About 13,000 students received warning letters Sept. 6 that they had until Sept. 26 to provide proof their shots were up to date, as required by state law. Of those, about 8,600 are still listed as not complying, according to a computer tally yesterday, said school spokeswoman Robyn Washington.

Some students' records are still held by the schools, so the actual number of cases may be a bit lower, she said. "We're backlogged, but we are working hard to get those records in," she said.

Two groups of students have been targeted by the schools. Many of the first group, 8,500 children, were identified in the spring and had a deadline of the first day of school, Sept. 6, to comply. At that time, another 13,000 who were newly identified were given until Tuesday to get their shots up to date.

Because so many families in the second group still have not complied, a temporary free clinic that had been disbanded will reopen at the North Avenue school headquarters Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. City health clinics again will hold immunization hours until the task is complete, health department spokesmen said.

The majority of students who must have their shots by Tuesday are new to the school system or are now in grades that require certain shots -- kindergarten and sixth grade, said Dr. Peter Beilenson, the city's health commissioner. Most need a booster for measles, mumps and rubella, he said.

"We're making this as easy as possible by providing advance notice and free clinics, but the primary responsibility for the children rests with the parents," Dr. Beilenson said. "There's really only so much a city government or a health care provider can do."

It had been years since the Baltimore school system enforced the state law barring students from classes if they lacked immunizations. Until this year's crackdown, school officials said, they had been more concerned with keeping the children in classes.

Next week's push to immunize students is the second phase of a campaign that began in March, when school officials determined that about 40,000 students enrolled last year had not had shots. Warned during the summer, some were required to obtain the shots to retrieve their report cards.

About 8,500 of those 40,000 missed the Sept. 6 deadline and were barred from school. Another 13,000 were newly identified and were given the Tuesday deadline.

After letters were sent home to both groups at the beginning of school, thousands scrambled to get to clinics and waited in line for hours for shots so that their children could be readmitted. Most of the earlier group of 8,500 are now in classes, Ms. Washington said. A tally of those students who are not should be completed this weekend.

Students in that first group who are still not up to date will be sought out by city health workers, Dr. Beilenson said. In addition, the health department is investigating whether it has legal recourse if it finds parents have willfully neglected to get their children immunized. The school system has had some reports of truants whose excuse is the immunization requirement, Dr. Beilenson said.

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