ALAN REED | The Sun
Lisa Bladon, a Purchase District Health Department RN, draws an injection for a sixth grade student. Students that age must now get boosters for chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
By Alan Reed
Students new to Kentucky public schools, and some incoming sixth-grade students, may face a few more shots to be compliant with new state immunization requirements.
The new regulation requires age appropriate vaccination with pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine for children up to age, and a dose of meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine for sixth-grade entry, said Charlie Ross, director of the Purchase District Health Department. In addition, a booster of varicella (chicken pox) will be required for kindergarten and sixth grade students. A dose of tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine will be required for entry into sixth grade, as well. A second dose of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is now required for children by age 6.
“The key thing we’re saying is that these shots have been recommended for some time,” Ross said. “Lots of kids already have them because their practitioners have followed CDC recommendations. The only difference is now they are required.”
Ross added that new mandatory shots are available at family health, primary care and pediatric practitioners and at county health departments for the uninsured and under-insured.
Dr. David Schell, a Paducah pediatrician, said he has encouraged parents to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization recommendations even before they became required.
“We maybe have 30 or 40 percent of our patients who may require a booster before entering sixth grade,” Schell said.
With the new mandatory shots, Schell said some childhood diseases, like chicken pox, could be eradicated. Even without the booster, chicken pox cases have grown rare, when once it was a regular condition he could nearly diagnose over the phone.
“There will be a whole new generation of doctors that will never see chicken pox,” Schell said.
However, Schell said if a significant number of parents opt out of immunization for religious or medical reasons, some childhood diseases could return. He added shots have been proven both medically safe and effective by several unbiased studies. One study claiming childhood shots could cause autism has been disproved, and the author of the study, British physician Dr. Andrew Wakefield has lost his medical license.
Russ Tilford, director of pupil personnel in McCracken County Schools, said he expects only students attending school for the first time in Kentucky, including transfers and new kindergarteners, and some grade six students to need extra shots.
“I’ll tell you the number of calls I’ve had from parents asking about it: zero,” Tilford said. “A lot of parents were aware of recommendations prior to enrollment.”
Tilford said schools are collaborating with practitioners and public health departments to ensure parents know what shots are required and their children receive the immunizations.
“This is the first update since 2002, and it’s a good time to make changes health care professionals say we need,” Tilford said. “We’ve seen very few parents unwilling to comply with requirements, though some seek medical or religious exemptions. We respect their right to make decisions for their children but feel this is an issue understood by the community to be necessary for public health and safety.”
Contact Alan Reed, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8658.