Kentucky has set new immunization guidelines for the upcoming school year. The updated immunization requirements went into effect July 1, said Denise Baldwin, director of nursing with the Hopkins County Health Department. These guidelines were set by the state and are based on national standards from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
Immunizations are supposed to be updated with school entry, which is preschool or kindergarten, and with entry into the sixth grade. There is also a 30-day grace period once the school term begins, Baldwin said.
Children who are at least 7 months old, but less than one year old, are required to receive two doses of the Haemophilus Influenza B (HIB) vaccine instead of three doses. The brand used now is a two-dose vaccine instead of a three-dose vaccine, said Baldwin.
A Varicella vaccination is required for children 16 months old who are going into preschool or daycare. The vaccination, which guards against chicken pox, is still required at age 4 for children who do not enter preschool or daycare earlier. The shot can be given to children at one year old, Baldwin said.
A second dose of the Varicella vaccine is also now required for 4-year-olds. Children who have had chicken pox don’t need the vaccine but must show verification of the disease by a health care provider, Baldwin said.
“There’s been little groups of children having breakthrough chicken pox,” Baldwin said, adding these milder cases have been reported in children who received only one vaccine dose.
The state requires the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) be given age-appropriately. There is no catch-up for children at least age 5 or older for the vaccine, Baldwin said. The shot prevents pneumonia.
Immunization schedules for PCV vary depending on health care providers. The state accepts fewer doses required for children who start immunization later, she said.
Children entering school are also required to receive a second dose of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and not a “measles-containing vaccine” like was previously accepted.
“This will mainly affect immigrants,” Baldwin said. “In the United States, we’ve been giving the MMR vaccine for quite some time, but we do see some students coming in from other countries, and they have had a dose of just measles vaccine.”
Students entering the sixth grade are required to have a Tdap booster. The vaccine guards against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough and is an illness that has shown a resurgence in the United States, Baldwin said.
Whooping cough may cause severe uncontrollable coughing, she said. It is particularly serious in young infants who may not be fully immunized. There have been some recent outbreaks in surrounding counties, but not in Hopkins County, Baldwin said.
Sixth-graders will also be required to receive a meningococcal vaccine that prevents bacterial meningitis. This disease is more common in teens who stay in communal living facilities, she said. A booster is recommended five years after the initial shot, but not required.
“They are trying to get the sixth-graders immunized so that they will be prepared for college dormitories, camps and things like that,” she said.
Children may receive immunizations from their pediatrician or health care provider. The Health Department and school clinics also give shots and boosters to clients who receive Medicaid, people with no insurance and those who have insurance, but it doesn’t cover vaccinations, Baldwin said.
The Health Department is open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and sees patients by appointment. The school clinics will be open on the first day of school for students who have returned their parental consent forms and have requested to receive immunization at school.
In order to receive an updated immunization certificate, people must be current on all requirements, even if they are past the requirement age, Baldwin said.