Indianapolis—An estimated 33,000 students in Marion County don't meet the state guidelines of the state's new immunization law, but now it appears those students will still be allowed to attend classes next week.
The Marion County Health Department made plans for several new mass vaccination clinics on Friday, but the county health director is also asking school districts to waive a deadline excluded kids from class because she says there's just not enough vaccine to go around.
Late Friday, IPS superintendent Dr. Eugene White released a statement saying the school will not enforce a Tuesday deadline for vaccinations, because of the countywide shortage. However, parents and children are still flooding clinics in order to comply with the state law.
Families waited for hours outside the Marion County Health Department on Friday for the vaccines numerous vaccinations for Chicken Pox, Whooping Cough / Tetanus and Meningitis required by the new state law.
"We're like 123 on the list and they're just now in the upper 60's," said Clarissa Wright who was trying to make sure her granddaughter was compliant with the law.
In all, more than 200 students waited at the clinic for a shot or shots many of them couldn't find anywhere else.
"I'm a working mother and it's hard to get in (to a physician)," said Kim Mathis. "They're mostly backed up because they couldn't get an appointment for like 3 months."
"We have a new doctor and she doesn't do any immunizations unfortunately," said another mother. "So that's why she sent us to the health department."
But the long lines at the health department represented a typical day in recent weeks. That's despite seven free mass vaccination clinics and even more regional office hours. The parents aren't the only one's stressed.
"We were there til midnight at one clinic," said Dr. Virginia Caine M.D., director of the Marion County Health Department. "We were there until 11:30 at night at another clinic. We have been overwhelmed."
But despite the long waits and huge demand of administering more than 28,000 doses so far, Dr. Caine says the biggest problem is now a lack of the vaccines themselves.
"We may very well run out before the week is out," said Dr. Caine.
The county is currently down to 2,800 doses of the combination Tetanus / Whooping Cough vaccine and just 1,300 doses of the Chicken Pox vaccine. The county has now placed an order with the state health department for an additional 3,000 doses of each of the different shots.
"But when you have 33,000 children (without shots) you can see what my dilemma is," Dr. Caine said.
Now both the county and state health departments have urged schools not to exclude kids from school in the short term. Though the law and numerous letters have warned parents of the deadline for months, Dr. Cain admits the sudden need for mass vaccinations is also the result of mass confusion.
"The feedback that we got from a number of superintendents is that parents honestly thought that they were in compliance based on what they do every year," Dr. Caine said.
Even though school superintendents in Marion County have agreed not to exclude students next week, the pressure to get shots for students remains high because it is required by law. Once the supply goes back up, schools will likely enforce new deadlines.
The Marion County Health Department will offer another free mass vaccination clinic at the Perry Township Education Center on Saturday, September 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will also be a series of clinics available at the Lafayette Square Mall. There is a $10 administration cost and the times are as follows:
Monday, September 20, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Tuesday, September 21, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Wednesday, September 22, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday, September 23, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.Friday, September 24, 8 a.m. - 11 a.m.
In addition, a back to school clinic will be held at the Lawrence North High School Fieldhouse on Saturday, September 25, from 9 a.m. - Noon.
* Each clinic requires that a guardian must accompany the child.* You also must bring current vaccination records or a letter from your school indicating the shot the student needs.
***The state law grants exceptions from the vaccinations for medical or religious reasons only. Parents are no longer allowed to simply offer a philosophical objection to vaccines.