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Regulations will require students to receive shots

By Staff | Apr 25, 2012

The Wetzel-Tyler Health Department recently announced the required vaccinations for the 2012-13 school year.

For years, West Virginia has required children entering grades K-12 for the first time to show proof they have been vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B. However, a new amendment to the rule – Immunization Requirements and Recommendations for New School Enterers – outlines new requirements for 7th and 12th graders this coming year.

According to Registered Nurse Karen Cain, who serves as the clinical supervisor for the health department, students entering 7th grade and 12th grade will have shot requirements that must be met before the start of the school year. “Seventh graders must show proof of a booster dose of Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and a dose of MCV4 (meningitis),” Cain explained. “Seniors must show proof of a single dose of Tdap, plus a booster dose of MCV4. If the first dose was given after the student’s 16th birthday, then a booster dose is not required.”

The changes were adopted from recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year health departments across the state piloted a vaccination program targeting students in the 7th grade. In terms of vaccination rates and protection from diseases, the program saw success.

Recently, reported cases of pertussis have increased nationwide. Since January 2011m about 25 cases have been confirmed in West Virginia. The disease, commonly known as whooping cough, can be passed to younger children very easily by older children and adults. Cain said, “Since the vaccination for pertussis is in the Tdap vaccine, it also gives the opportunity to boost immunity to diphtheria and tetanus.”

The new requirements also call for vaccinations against meningitis, one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis in the country. While children less than one year of age are at highest risk of the disease, adolescents are at increased risk compared to the general population. College students housed in dormitories or other settings where adolescents and young adults are housed in close quarters, like summer camps, academic and sports programs involving overnight stays or other group housing events and activities, also are at higher risk. Ten to 14 percent of those contracting meningococcal meningitis die. Meningococcal disease can also result in significant disability. While the vast majority of cases are sporadic, localized outbreaks of this disease do occur. Given disease severity and the challenges of managing this disease in the institutional or school setting, vaccination of all school children is now required.

Parents are urged to contact their child’s physician to check on the availability of the immunizations at their facility, or call the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department at 304-337-2001.

The immunization schedule can be difficult for parents to understand, which is why an immunization/well child check-up is so important. “Take your child to their doctor for a routine adolescent check-up to determine if your child’s shots are current and meet the 2012-2013 school entry requirements,” Cain said. “Children who are found to be missing shots can receive them during that visit.”

Children without a family doctor may visit the local health department, school-based health center or community health center for an immunization check-up.

“Children without insurance, children whose physician does not carry the vaccine, or those with insurance that doesn’t cover the cost of the immunizations may qualify for free or low cost immunizations,” Cain said. Children without insurance or those with insurance that doesn’t cover the cost of the immunization may participate in the Vaccines for Children program that provides free vaccine to children age 18 and under without any out-of-pocket expense to the parent. Children enrolled with Medicaid or WVCHIP also receive state-supplied vaccines at no cost to the parent.

Additional immunizations suggested by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health, but not required by the school board, include those protecting students against influenza and human papillomavirus (HPV).

An annual flu vaccine is recommended. “Any child aged six months or older should be vaccinated annually against influenza,” Cain stated. “Children from six to 23 months are at substantially increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations and children ages two to four years of age are at increased risk for influenza-related clinic and emergency room visits. Children and school personnel with certain medical conditions and school personnel who are older are at increased risks of influenza complications and death.”

Healthcare professionals also recommend that adolescents receive a vaccination against HPV. According to statistics, approximately 23 million people in the United States are infected by genital human papillomavirus (HPV) and about six million more become infected each year. HPV can cause cervical cancer in women.

Every year in the United States about 11 thousand women get cervical cancer and almost four thousand die from it. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide. HPV is also associated with several less common types of cancer in both men and women affecting more than an additional 14 thousand people and causes genital warts and warts in the upper respiratory tract. More than 50 percent of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives.

The HPV4 vaccine protects against two types of HPV virus which are responsible for seventy percent of cervical cancer cases and the two types of HPV virus that cause 90 percent of genital warts cases. HPV2 vaccine protects against the same two types of HPV virus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. In females, HPV4 vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva, and reduces the risk of genital warts. HPV2 vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of cervical pre-cancers and cancers. HPV4 vaccine in males has been shown to reduce the risk of genital warts. Depending on vaccine coverage rates in females, male vaccination may also help reduce the spread of HPV to females and thereby reduce cervical and other HPV related cancers in women and girls.

The best way to ensure disease prevention is to give the HPV vaccine prior to the individual becoming sexually active.

The HPV vaccine consists of a three dose series. Routine vaccination is recommended for girls with the first dose administered at age 11 to 12. It is also recommended for girls ages 13-18 who have not previously been vaccinated. The HPV4 vaccine series may be given to males, as well.

For more information about the new requirements, contact the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department at 304-337-2001.