SANFORD, Maine – Three students received flu shots at school, even though their parents had not consented to the vaccinations, a spokesperson for the health care organization that administered the shots confirmed.
Jacqueline Welsh, community relations director for Northern Light Health, said in an email Wednesday that the three children were vaccinated “without fully executed, or completely documented consent.”
The Sanford School Department contracted with Northern Light Home Care & Hospice to administer the influenza vaccines to students, Welsh said.
“We have no additional information to share, other than to say that we are the largest provider of School Located Vaccine Clinics in Maine,” Welsh said. “This program is proven to help prevent the spread of influenza from school to home and into the community.”
Sanford Superintendent of Schools Matthew Nelson said Wednesday the department has identified at least two cases in which the vaccines were administered to a student at a local school without parental permission. Nelson declined to name the schools where these vaccines were administered.
Nelson also said there was at least one incident in which a parent reported that their child had received a vaccine without consent, but that actually turned out not to be the case.
“Upon further investigation, we were able to confirm that we did have a signed permission form,” Nelson said.
Students get consent forms for vaccines in the back-to-school packets their schools send home with them in September, according to Nelson. Those that are signed and returned are kept on file.
Nelson said the school department has contracted with Northern Light for the administration of flu vaccines for a few years. This year, about 300 students have received the vaccine, he said.
One local parent, George Kimball, said his daughter, a seventh-grader, had told him she received a vaccine at school Oct. 22, even though he had not given earlier consent.
Kimball said he had indicated on the forms that his daughter and son brought home from school that they were not be vaccinated. He said his children returned the forms to the school unsigned.
On his daughter’s form, Kimball said he answered “yes” to the question, “Has this person ever had a severe reaction to an influenza immunization in the past?”
Also on his daughter’s form, in a box at the bottom labeled “Vaccine Preferred,” Kimball said he wrote “none.” He also drew a line through the two listed options, “shot only” and “mist only.”
Kimball said Wednesday his daughter is “doing OK.”
According to Kimball, the nurse at his daughter’s school called him Oct. 22 and apologized. He said the nurse told him that a representative of Northern Light would get in touch with him by the following day. “We’re here on the 28th, and I’ve heard nothing from them,” Kimball said.
Kimball described the incident as far from “an oops” and compared it to someone giving a peanut to a child who has a peanut allergy. It doesn’t matter, he said, if a child’s reason is religious in nature or due to an allergy, a school still needs parental consent to vaccinate because the child is a minor.
“That was totally undermined in that process,” Kimball said of his daughter’s vaccination, “and what we’re seeing now is a lack of accountability.”
Kimball said he is speaking up for parents to help make sure what happened to his daughter does not happen to other children.
“There’s nothing more I can do, except be an advocate,” he said.
Nelson said the safety of students is the school department’s “first and foremost” priority. He added that the department will be looking at its vaccination protocols involving both local schools and independent contractors to see if any action needs to be taken.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that this happened,” Nelson said. “We’re going to use this opportunity to review our protocols and see if any changes need to take place to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”