August is here and with it the Back to School preparation begins. We look at our check lists for supplies and uniforms, perhaps new outfits, but most important is our kids’ health. One check list that must be up to date is that School Immunizations list. Back in July the New York State Health Department announced updated school immunizations requirements. So, if you haven’t already scheduled your child’s physical, it is time to do so now. And be sure to check with your physician that your son or daughter is up to date with the new requirements as they are not only for new students.
Everyone has their own stance when it comes to allowing their children to receive vaccines but the goal of school immunizations requirements is to keep children healthier by preventing serious diseases.
“Immunizations protect children from serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles, and have an excellent track record of safety and effectiveness,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D. “I encourage parents to talk to their children’s healthcare provider and work with their school’s health services to ensure that all immunizations are up-to-date.”
There are two kinds of exemptions from immunizations, Medical and Religious, and they must be accompanied by required documentation, as noted in the Requirements of the Immunization Handbook for New York State Post-secondary Institutions, Section 1. Below you will find the requirements announced by the State Health Department on July 1, 2014 as listed on their press release.
New School Immunization Requirements
The new requirements, which apply to daycare, head start, nursery, pre-kindergarten and grades kindergarten through 12, represent the continued effort to protect students from vaccine-preventable diseases. The changes mark the first update to school immunization requirements in over a decade, and include:
- Students entering kindergarten or 6th grade in the 2014-2015 school year will now be required to have two doses of the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine and 3-5 doses of poliomyelitis vaccine. The updated varicella and polio vaccination requirements will be phased in over the next seven years and will be required for all grades by the 2020-2021 school year.
- For all other required vaccines, students in day care, head start, nursery, pre-kindergarten and grades kindergarten through 12 will be required to have age-appropriate doses in accordance with the ACIP schedule.
- A student who is in process is defined as one who has had the first dose of vaccine in all of the required immunization series and has appointments to complete the series in accordance with the ACIP catch up schedule. See http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html. A student who is in process must be allowed to attend school.
- Students may present proof of immunity by serology (blood test) for the following immunizations: measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, and poliomyelitis.
- Medical exemptions to immunizations must be reissued annually. The written exemption must identify the immunization exempted, the medical contraindication for the exemption, and the length of time the immunization is contraindicated. A sample medical exemption form is available at http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/schools.
- Any child who has been vaccinated according to the ACIP recommendations, which are followed by most health care providers, should not need further vaccinations in order to attend day care or school.
More detailed information, including an immunization chart outlining the new requirements for the 2014-2015 school year, frequently asked questions regarding the school immunization regulations and a webinar presented by DOH staff reviewing the updated school immunization regulations are available at DOH’s Immunization website: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/schools/updated_school_imm_requirements.htm.