5 questions: Immunization requirements
Nancy Tausz, director of disease containment with the Johnson County Health Department discusses new immunization requirements for schoolchildren.
Q: What new immunizations are now required for children entering school?
A: Kindergarten through ninth-graders are required to have the Hepatitis B series (three shots)
First- through ninth-graders are required to have one Varicella vaccine (chickenpox)
Kindergartners are required to have two Varicella vaccines (chickenpox)
Q: Children who have already been through kindergarten need to get the new immunizations?
A: These immunizations apply to the student’s grade level.
Q: Why were the immunizations added to the required list?
A: Varicella is a vaccine preventable disease. Deaths continue to occur from varicella. Prior to the licensing of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, almost all persons in the U.S. had suffered from chickenpox by adulthood. Each year, the virus caused an estimated 4 million cases of chickenpox, 11,000 hospitalizations and 100-150 deaths.
A highly contagious disease, chickenpox is usually mild but can be severe in some persons. Infants, adolescents and adults, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons are at particular risk for serious complications. The availability of the chickenpox vaccine and its subsequent widespread use has had a major impact on reducing cases. In some areas, cases have decreased as much as 90 percent over prevaccination numbers.
More than 2 billion persons worldwide have been infected with the hepatitis B virus at some time in their lives. Of these, 350 million are lifelong carriers of the disease and can transmit the virus to others. One million of these people die each year from liver disease and liver cancer.
National studies have shown that about 12.5 million Americans have been infected with hepatitis B virus at some point in their lifetime. Chronic hepatitis B virus infection increases a person’s risk for chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. About 5,000 persons will die each year from hepatitis B-related liver disease.
The number of new infections per year has declined from an average of 450,000 in the 1980s to about 80,000 in 1999. The greatest decline has occurred among children and adolescents due to routine hepatitis B vaccination.
Q: Where should parents find an immunization schedule to keep their child on track??
A: The current schedule can be found at www.immunize.org or www.cdc.gov/vaccines.