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Schools prepare for 2013-14 vaccination requirement changes


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Parents who just made sure all their children’s shots were up to date should keep those records handy: Indiana’s shot requirements are changing again.

Starting next year, the state will require students in all grades to have received two varicella vaccines, or have a documented case of chicken pox. That will affect fourth- and fifth-graders, who until now needed only one dose of the vaccine.

The state also is recommending that incoming kindergartners receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine and that high school juniors and seniors receive a booster of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which provides protection against meningitis. But those recommendations could become requirements at the start of the 2014-15 school year, and local school districts are working now to notify parents of the possible and upcoming changes.

Indiana last changed the vaccination requirements for students in 2010, adding to the number of shots students in sixth through 12th grades needed. In the years since, local school districts have had to track down students who hadn’t received all of the required vaccinations, occasionally keeping them home until they got the shots.

CHECKUP CHECKLIST

Here’s a look at the vaccination changes for the 2013-14 school year:

Required: All students in kindergarten through 12th grade will be required to receive two varicella vaccines or show a history of chicken pox.

Whom this will affect: Fourth- and fifth-graders

Recommended: Kindergartners should receive two hepatitis A vaccines, and high school juniors and seniors should receive a meningococcal conjugate booster shot.

What the future holds: Local school health service coordinator as well as the Johnson County Health Department expect these recommendations could become requirements by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Vaccination resource: Residents who are on Medicaid, who don’t have insurance or whose insurance plans don’t cover vaccinations can receive vaccinations for their children from the Johnson County Health Department. Anyone with questions can call 346-4368.

Nurses and heath directors from Center Grove, Franklin and Greenwood don’t think next year’s vaccination requirements will create as many issues as the 2010 changes because they involve two grades, not seven. With fewer students affected, schools will have an easier time identifying and notifying students whose vaccination records aren’t up-to-date.

But making sure high school students get the necessary vaccinations could be a problem because those students typically haven’t needed to receive shots before the start of school. That’s why the school districts plan to notify parents of the changes this semester, if they haven’t already, health service coordinators Carla Slauter, Beth Arkanoff and Libby Cruzan said.

“We’re hoping with getting this information out as soon as possible and giving (parents and students) every opportunity to meet the requirements before school that it’ll happen,” Cruzan said.

In 2010, Indiana added tetanus/pertussis and meningococcal vaccines to the list of shots students needed in sixth through 12th grades. Before then, parents of most students in sixth grade and up weren’t used to getting their children vaccinated before starting school.

Since then, school districts have struggled to quickly track which students had all of their shots because so many were affected by the changes. In January 2011, 10 Center Grove students were sent home from school because they hadn’t received all of the required shots, and in October 2012 about 300 students across Johnson County hadn’t gotten the shots or made appointments.

Clark-Pleasant had to keep about 100 students home in October until their records were updated, and Franklin schools sent one student home this semester due to inadequate vaccinations, Arkanoff said.

The state’s new meningococcal recommendation for high schoolers concerns health service coordinators the most. That’s because most juniors and seniors haven’t had to get shots for school, they said.

“I want to let (parents and students) know as soon as possible, just because I do anticipate it becoming a requirement,” Cruzan said.

Before requiring a vaccine for students, the Indiana State Department of Health reviews statistics and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as local factors, such as whether there could be a vaccine shortage, Johnson County Health Department director of nursing Lisa DeVault said.

“They really do take a lot into account before they just make requirements,” she said.

If the meningococcal vaccine becomes a requirement, an announcement likely would be made next year, DeVault said.

Local school districts typically notify parents and students of updated vaccination requirements at the end of the year, but Greenwood and Franklin both plan to publicize the elementary- and high school-level changes in March in school newsletters, Cruzan and Arkanoff said.

Greenwood has started reviewing students’ medical records to see who doesn’t have all of the shots the state is requiring and recommending and plans to send notices to those students’ families this spring, Cruzan said.

Center Grove started publicizing the new elementary vaccination requirements during the fall, a semester earlier than usual through school newsletters. It likely will send letters to students who are missing shots after spring break, Slauter said.

She said she wants to wait until this fall to start contacting Center Grove families about the new high school recommendations because she wants to know whether the state will require students to get the shots once they reach a certain age or grade.

The health service coordinators aren’t as concerned about the new hepatitis A requirement because most young children who have been receiving regular vaccinations from their doctors will have received the two shots before starting school, they said.

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