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State requires added vaccines for kindergartners, seniors

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Soon-to-be high school seniors will need to visit their doctors before returning this fall, while kindergartners will need an additional shot before their first day of school.

The Indiana Department of Health is requiring seniors to receive a second meningococcal vaccine before the start of the 2014-15 school year. This school year, that shot was only a recommendation — not a requirement — for juniors and seniors.

Kindergartners also must receive two hepatitis A shots, given six months apart, before the start of next school year. The health department previously recommended the hepatitis A vaccine when children received the five other shots needed before starting elementary school, Johnson County Health Department director of nursing Lisa Brown said.

Now that the shots are required, health and school officials are working to tell parents as quickly as possible so students’ shot records will be up to date and they will be ready for school.

This is the third change in vaccination requirements since 2010, and some students and families have had trouble keeping up. In October 2012, 300 students hadn’t received all of the required shots by the start of the school year, and Clark-Pleasant and Franklin schools sent more than 100 students home until they got their shots or made appointments with their doctor.

What’s New?

Here are the 2014-2015 vaccination requirements:

Children 3 to 5 years old: Three hepatitis B shots; four diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis shots; three polio shots; one measles, mumps and rubella shot; one varicella shot

Before kindergarten: Additional doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella and varicella are required; two doses of hepatitis A are now required; a fourth dose of polio is recommended

Grades 1-5: All of those listed above; hepatitis A is not required

Grades 6-11: A dose of tetanus and pertussis; a dose of meningococcal

Grade 12: A second dose of meningococcal

Schools and county health officials started working about 18 months ago to encourage parents to get the shots before the new requirements took effect. Many families who vaccinate their children through the county health department have returned to get the shots they need, but Brown said she still expects to see a rush of high school seniors coming to get their shots before next school year.

Changes in vaccination requirements come from the state department of health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agencies typically update policies when they see preventable diseases are on the rise. The state is requiring the new meningococcal vaccine because of a rise in meningitis cases reported among college students living in dorms, while the hepatitis A vaccination is needed because of a spike in those cases as well, Brown said.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of what the CDC requires and what the state requires,” Brown said.

The second meningococcal shot helps protect students from meningitis for five years. Most students can receive the shot when they’re 16, but if a student waits until their senior year of high school they have a better chance at staying protected through four years of college, Brown said.

New vaccination requirements for younger children typically aren’t a problem, as parents regularly take their children to get more shots through sixth grade. But by the time a student reaches high school, they don’t always realize they have to get new shots, such as the tetanus and pertussis vaccine that is now required, before returning to school, Brown said.

The county health department, which gives free shots to residents on Medicaid, those without insurance or whose insurance plans don’t cover vaccinations, has been contacting families to remind them of the change. Many of those families have brought their children back for the newly required shots, and Brown hopes that will mean fewer students will come in right before the start of next school year.

Schools also have been sending fliers and notices home with students since last school year, reminding parents of the new requirements that began this school year — kindergartners needed a fifth shot of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, while all students needed a second chickenpox vaccine — and telling them what changes were expected in 2014-15.

“The schools are definitely doing their job, their part, to let parents know,” Brown said.

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