Saturday, April 17, 2021

Annual appeal: get your vaccinations up to date


Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, the World Health Organization reports. Use of that vaccine resulted in a 79-percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2014 worldwide, but measles are much more under control in the US, where schools require kids to be vaccinated against the disease.

Vaccination campaign in Liberia, February 2015 (UNMEER/Aalok Kanani/Flickr CC)

In June 2015, Gov Jerry Brown of California signed one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country. The California law eliminated personal and religious belief exemptions for vaccines, because some people were refusing to have their kids vaccinated on religious grounds.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” the Sacramento Bee quoted him as saying. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Laws like this are why this highly contagious disease is under control in the US. A woman in Washington state died in the spring of 2015, and her case was confirmed as the first US fatality from measles in 12 years, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Vaccinations in Maryland

In Maryland, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene requires students to receive a spectrum of vaccinations. A few were added just last year, including two doses of Varicella, a chickenpox vaccine for students entering first grade or kindergarten. The new law also added for students entering seventh or eighth grade the requirement that they receive:

If students haven’t submitted records of the vaccines by the first day of school, they may be admitted to school temporarily only if they can show that the vaccines are pending or not required. A vaccine would be considered pending if the student’s parents had made an appointment with a doctor to administer the vaccines within 20 days of the start of school.

Vaccinations in Illinois

In Illinois, the state made a few important changes to the vaccination laws, according to a report in the Telegraph:

Kindergarten students and those in grades 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 must show proof of having received two doses of varicella vaccine, the paper reported, citing a Madison County Regional Office of Education news release.

Students in all other grades must show proof of one dose. Prior to this year, the two-dose rule had only applied to kindergarten, sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th grades. Students entering sixth, seventh, and 12th grade must show proof of immunization for meningococcal. Previously that requirement was for students in sixth and 12th grade.

The above information was also found in a press release from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Students have until October 15 statewide to present proof of immunization, but some school districts have set an earlier deadline. The school district in Alton, near St Louis, requires students to show proof of vaccination by September 30.

The Illinois school code requires that students entering school for the first time (early childhood, kindergarten, or first grades), students entering kindergarten, sixth, and ninth grades, and transfer students must submit evidence of a physical examination and a complete record of immunizations. Immunization records must show proof of immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and chicken pox.

  • Early childhood students are also required to have the haemophilus influenzae (HIB) and pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Early childhood and sixth grade through high school are also required to have the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Sixth grade thru twelfth grade are required to have the Tdap vaccine.
  • Sixth grade and twelfth grade are required to have the meningococcal vaccine.

“Our lobby is packed right now,” the Telegraph quoted Debbie Knoll, personal health services manager at the Madison County Health Department, as saying.

“Immunizations are in place to protect students, families, and communities,” said State Superintendent Tony Smith. “Our students need to stay healthy in order to be able to put their best foot forward each day and continue to grow both in the classroom and outside of it.”

Vaccination rules have long been a part of Illinois law. The state requires children to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases. For school entrance, they have to show proof of vaccination against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza type b, hepatitis b, and varicella, as well as pneumococcal and now meningococcal (depending on age) vaccinations.

“Preventing diseases through vaccination is a proven way to improve community health,” said Nirav D Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “By promoting immunizations and increasing vaccination rates, especially among children, we can prevent many chronic illnesses and keep students healthy in school and ready to learn.”

About the photo: In February 2015, the Pipeline Community Health Center in Monrovia, Liberia, worked to resume routine immunizations that were put on hold due to the Ebola epidemic. The effort is part of a nationwide campaign led by Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and supported by UNICEF, known as the periodic intensification of routine immunization, or PIRI, which aims to rapidly reduce the number of children not immunized against measles. In Liberia, government data shows that monthly measles immunization coverage against target dropped from 71% in May 2014 to 55% in October 2014. Doctors have noted the risk of non-immunized children spreading measles to other children in school, as well as the importance of vaccinations as schools open. “Children would come down with measles and the parents would not notice, and would send them to school … and it would pass on to other children,” one doctor said.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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