With the start of school just a month away, it’s time for parents to make sure their children have the required vaccinations. This year the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has added to new vaccines to the list:
Changes for 2019-20 School Year
• Students entering kindergarten and grade 1 for the 2019-2020 school year now need two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine.
• Students entering Grade 7 need one dose of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.
• Students entering Grade 11 need one dose of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine if not vaccinated prior to their 16th birthday. They will need two doses if their first dose was before their 16th birthday.
KDHE proposed changes to the regulations earlier this year and they will go into effect on August 2.
The Barton County Health Department has all of the vaccines children need for school but BCHD Director Shelly Schneider urges people not to wait until the last minute.
Great Bend USD 428 is working in partnership with the health department to offer vaccinations for K-12 students on Saturday, Aug. 3, during the previously scheduled athletic physicals, said Andrea Bauer, public information director for the district. The immunization requirements for the 2019-2020 school year can be found on the district’s website at https://www.greatbendschools.net/parents-students/student-health-info.
Vaccine requirements for Kansas schools can also be found online at http://www.kdheks.gov/immunize/schoolInfo.htm.
Families are responsible for getting vaccinations from their regular health-care provider, whether it’s the family doctor or the health department, Schneider said. However, the Barton County Health Department is looking into offering school-based clinics at Ellinwood and Hoisington in the future.
A good change
The decision to add hep A and meningococcal vaccine requirements came after a 60-day public comments period, said KDHE Secretary Lee Norman.
“We received many comments and input from all viewpoints,” Norman said. The Kansas City Star reported that the hearing included people who voiced a variety of fears and said the vaccination requirements give the government too much power. “We listened and read all of the input and concerns submitted to us. We looked at the evidence. Both meningitis and hepatitis A illnesses are severe and preventable, and the safety profile of the vaccines is well-recognized. As an agency charged to establish policies that protect and improve the lives of Kansans, we felt the addition of the two vaccines was essential for the health and safety of our state.”
Schneider agreed, noting hep A vaccinations were already required for day care in Kansas and that health-care providers can see the value of the vaccinations. “They’re seeing that they work. We cannot stress the importance enough.”
In fact, she recommends additional vaccinations that are optional, such as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for children 11 years of age and old, and an additional meningococcal vaccine at grade 11. Health officials also recommend an annual influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
“Just because a vaccine isn’t required doesn’t mean it’s not necessary,” Schneider said.
About the Vaccines
Meningococcal ACWY Vaccine
The meningococcal ACWY vaccine protects against meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease has two common outcomes: meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infections. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease spread through the exchange of nose and throat droplets, such as when coughing, sneezing, or kissing. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. With bloodstream infection, symptoms also include a dark purple rash. About one of every 10 people who gets the disease dies from it. Survivors of meningococcal disease may lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become developmentally disabled, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Hepatitis A Vaccine
The hepatitis A vaccine protects against the hepatitis A virus. The virus is spread primarily person to person through the fecal-oral route. In other words, the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, poor appetite, vomiting, stomach pain and sometimes jaundice (when skin and eyes turn yellow). An infected person may have no symptoms, may have mild illness for a week or two, may have severe illness for several months, or may rarely develop liver failure and die from the infection. In the U.S., about 100 people a year die from hepatitis A.
Exemptions from Vaccines
Kansas allows exemptions to vaccines for medical and religious reasons, but not philosophical reasons, according to Kansas News Service (ksnewsservice.org). The school board or governing body for non-public schools are responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations and statutes.
Earlier this year, Kansas News Service reported that even though Kansas requires students to get vaccinated, 15% of kindergartners are missing shots.
“As best as public health experts can tell, religious objections and the anti-vaccination movement account for just a tiny sliver of the myriad reasons.
“More commonly, the obstacles involve busy work lives, rural distances, poverty, spotty vaccine records, health providers with gaps in vaccine stock or limited walk-in hours, and the public’s lack of knowledge about things like adult vaccine schedules.”