DC Public Schools promotes new portal to track children’s immunization records

Dr. Ana Caskin, medical director of DCPS school-based heath care centers, Medstar Medical Group; Dr. Asad Bandealy, Heath Care Access Bureau, DC Health,; DCPS Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee; and Deputy Superintendent Branson at Anacostia High School. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

School won’t start until Aug. 28, but D.C. health and school officials are working to make sure children are up-to-date on their immunizations and well-child visits by the time the first bells ring.

“The vaccine schedule is very complicated and hard to understand — even on the provider side sometimes,” said Dr. Ana Caskin, medical director of the DCPS school-based health centers with the MedStar Medical Group, who spoke to reporters outside Anacostia High School on Thursday.

But this year, DC Health is rolling out a portal for providers that will generate an electronic universal health certificate, or e-UHC.

“Providers can log on to the DC Health provider portal” to submit immunization information, “and that data will be then available in your child’s student health record and is transmitted and stored in compliance with all federal and local requirements around safety and privacy,” said Dr. Asad Bandealy, a pediatrics specialist.

Determining compliance figures has shifted since DC Health has changed the parameters for when a student is determined to be in compliance with immunization requirements.

“Essentially, as soon as a shot comes due, based on the CDC schedule, your child is due for it and it’s required for schools,” Bandealy said.

Bandealy said the new definition was designed to make it simpler for families, “but it does mean that there are more students considered noncompliant at this time.”

Bandealy said as of this spring, for example, 89% of kindergarten students were in compliance for their MMR vaccines (measles, mumps and rubella.) Right now, for overall compliance figures, he said, “We still have a ways to go. Our target is 95%.”

In the past, even before COVID-19, DCPS had tried barring students who were not up-to-date on their vaccinations from entering schools on the first day. That’s not the case now, said D.C. Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. “We give families a grace period to provide that documentation, so we welcome all students and families on the first day of school.”

Once a family is notified that the child’s not in compliance with immunization and well-child visits, Ferebee said, “they will be given a specific date in which they are required to provide that documentation.”

Immunizations and those well-child visits are available at the DCPS school-based health centers this summer, and clinics and mobile medical units in D.C. will be providing access as well, according to health officials.

“In terms of barriers, we continue to think through and get feedback from our families on what’s creating challenges for them,” Ferebee said, when it comes to making sure children are fully up to date on their shots.

“We know that families have lots of documents that they have to complete at the beginning of the school year,” said Ferebee. That’s why he said the electronic universal health certificate submitted by health providers could be so helpful.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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