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Knowing her 7-year-old has had adverse reactions to medication in the past, Kim Lutheran thought she had made it clear she didn't want her son vaccinated for the swine flu.
She signed the "no-consent" portion of the form Oregon City Schools sent home, then circled it with a black marker for emphasis.
To her shock, her first-grader was given the shot when the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department set up a flu clinic Monday at Starr Elementary. When she found out later that day, she said she was livid, not to mention worried for her son Matthew's health.
"It wasn't just that we didn't want the vaccination. It was we didn't want the vaccination because," Mrs. Lutheran, a registered nurse, said. "The health department has to be held accountable for violating my parental rights to say no. They did not have parental consent. They had 'do not give consent.'•"
The error has prompted the health department to revise the consent forms used for the in-school clinics planned across Lucas County, Larry Vasko, deputy health commissioner, said.
"We really thought we had things in place that something like that would not happen, and it did," Mr. Vasko said. "Very fortunately - and we're most interested in the child's welfare - the child is apparently fine or in pretty good shape. We certainly have taken steps so that this sort of thing will not happen again."
Consent forms sent home with Maumee City Schools students this week - the next district where flu clinics are to be held - ask only for parents to sign the form if they want their children
vaccinated. Those who do not give their consent should not return the forms, and their children will not be vaccinated, Mr. Vasko said.
"Only kids from a classroom who have consent forms would come down to the clinic," he said. "They would be paired with their form at the time of vaccination."
While that is what should have happened in Matthew Lutheran's case, it did not.
Mrs. Lutheran, who works as an emergency room nurse at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, said she was told Matthew was sent to the flu clinic, then sent back to his classroom.
"He got sent back again by himself into this strange room with these strange people," she said. "Supposedly three people looked at his piece of paper before he went to the R.N. who gave him the immunization. ... He's 7. He didn't know."
Mr. Vasko said he is not certain what happened Monday. He declined to comment on who was involved or whether any employees would be disciplined for the error, but said he feels confident the mistake should be not be repeated.
"I can give that assurance that we've really looked at it and really looked at our plans and procedures to make sure nothing like this would happen again," he said.
Oregon Superintendent Michael Zalar said school officials were unaware of any other students being immunized without parental consent, an incident he deemed unfortunate.
"All I can really comment on is that the school provided the site for the health department," he said. "We just were a location to assist their vaccination process."
The health department is attempting to immunize as many children as possible against the H1N1 virus, which is particularly hard on children.
Oregon was the first school district in Lucas County to host the immunization clinics. The health department is scheduled to be in Maumee next week, with clinics on Monday at Fairfield, Fort Miami, Union, and Wayne Trail elementaries and on Wednesday at Gateway Middle School and Maumee High School.
Mrs. Lutheran said she was assured Matthew would not get the second round of vaccine that children 9 years old and younger will be getting at school in a few weeks, but she plans to talk to him beforehand just in case.
"You tell your kids, 'Don't talk to strangers. Don't go with people who say they have a dog. Don't go with people who say they know mommy or daddy even if they know our names,' but I never thought I'd have to say, 'Don't let people put a needle in your arm without mommy standing there,'•" she said. "It never occurred to me I'd have to have that conversation with my 7-year-old."
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