Immunization guideline changes proposed for 2014-15

With August coming soon, parents and students are getting ready for the beginning of a new school term and immunizations are a key part of the preparation.

The Arkansas Department of Health has proposed some changes to immunization requirements. If they are approved on July 24, they will go into effect on Sept. 1.

Health Department officials say they anticipate approval.

The changes have been in the process for several years, said Jennifer Dillaha, medical director for immunizations for the Health Department.

She noted that the changes help to align the state requirements with the recommendations of the Accession Screening and Immunization Program.

One change includes the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis because more incidents of pertussis (whooping cough) have been reported in students who are younger than seventh grade. In 2013, there were 466 cases of pertussis in Arkansas in comparison with 80 cases in 2011, Dillaha said.

Students who are 11 or older on or before Sept. 1 will be required to receive a Tdap shot, she said.
Vaccines are important for a person's health now and in the future, Health Department officials point out.

"We don't vaccinate just to project our children. We also vaccinate to protect our grandchildren and their grandchildren," according to the Centers for Disease Control. "If we keep vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that diseases like polio and meningitis won't infect, cripple or kill children.
Vaccinations are one of the best ways to put an end to the serious effects of certain diseases."

Other immunization requirements include:

•Kindergarteners and first-grade students need one Hepatitis A shot given on or after their first birthday.

•Kindergarteners through 12th-grade students need to complete a series of three polio shots. One of the shots must have been given on or after the student's fourth birthday.

•Students who are entering seventh grade need a meningococcal shot. Students turning 16 on or before Sept. 1, regardless of their grade, also need a meningococcal shot if they have not already had one. If they have had one prior to the age of 16, they will need a second shot.
Students 16 on or before Sept. 1 will have until Oct. 1 to meet this new requirement.

•Students from first grade to 12th grade need to have completed a series of four DTaP shots with one given on or after the student's fourth birthday. Only three DTaP shots are required if the student did not receive any before age 7.
The DTaP shot is the pertussis shot for young children.

•Kindergarten through 12th-grade students need to complete a series of two varicella (chicken pox) shots.
For more information about immunization requirements, contact the Saline County Health Department at 501-303-5650.