By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
Parents of school-age children can expect a change to their students’ vaccinations schedule before the 2013-2014 school year.
Karen Long, of the Howard County Health Department, said Monday state health officials are requiring students entering kindergarten to have two measles vaccinations and recommending two vaccinations for hepatitis A.
She said the state also is recommending a booster shot for meningitis for all students in the 11th and 12th grades for the next school year.
For the 2014-2015 school year, it will be required that all students entering kindergarten have two vaccinations for chickenpox and hepatitis A, and for 12th-grade students, the meningitis booster will be mandatory.
Long said once the two chickenpox and hepatitis A inoculations are received, the child won’t be required to get additional vaccinations.
She said hepatitis A, which is a viral infection of the liver, is caused by contaminated food or water. Long said it is not common in the U.S., but is common in foreign countries.
She said a meningitis vaccination already is required for students in the sixth to 12th grades, but the state is now requiring a booster. Long said the booster shot received in the 12th grade will protect a student through college.
The Howard County Health Department will be conducting its normal vaccination clinics before the start of the 2013-2014 school year, Long said.
She said parents can refuse to have their children vaccinated based on a religious objection.
“It’s up to each school to determine if they will permit students to attend school without the mandatory vaccinations,” Long said. “We prefer they be compliant with the vaccination requirements.”
Most Howard County school systems give parents a reasonable amount of time to have their children vaccinated, and normally provide three notices.
“We encourage parents to have their children vaccinated,” Long said. “It prevents an outbreak and protects the entire community from risk. Without a deadline, people won’t get their children vaccinated.”
Long said there are school systems in the region that won’t admit students without the required vaccinations.
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