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April 5, 2001

Pitt convenes group to immunize 30,000 students in county

A task force of university and community leaders convened by Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent John Thompson March 29 unveiled plans for a campaign to help keep more than 30,000 students in Allegheny County in school.

In accordance with Pennsylvania law, elementary and secondary schools are faced with suspending students who have not provided documentation of their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations by April 30.

Approximately 30,000 students in Allegheny County are at risk.

Thompson said that the task force will concentrate on informing the community of the need to update the students' immunization records, along with providing opportunities in the schools and community clinics to provide the MMR booster to students who have not received it.

In order to facilitate the effort, Bruce Dixon, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said that double verbal consent by a parent or guardian will suffice, in lieu of a signed consent form, to allow immunizations to be administered. He also emphasized that, in cases where no proof of previous booster shots can be found, repeat immunizations will cause no harm to the student.

The chair of the task force's executive committee is Stephen Thomas, Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice and director of Pitt's Center for Minority Health. He will coordinate the necessary medical services, community outreach, and health communications strategies needed to accomplish the goal.

Thomas said that any parents who are unsure of their child's vaccination status should contact the child's school nurse as soon as possible.

For questions about the immunization program or scheduled clinics, call 622-3617 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

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