Time running out for children to meet new vaccine requirement

Time running out for children to meet new vaccine requirement
If your children did not get a Hepatitis A vaccine, they may not be able to attend school next year.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Time is running out for parents to check their child's immunization records and get them up to date.

If your child doesn't have an important vaccination, it could mean they may not be able to go to school in the 2018-2019 school year.

The state of Kentucky now requires all students in kindergarten through 12th grade to provide proof of having received two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine before the 2018-2019 school year begins. Although that may seem like plenty of time, parents should start scheduling appointments with pediatricians now.

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"The way the vaccine works for the body to build appropriate immunity, there has to be a spacing between the first and the second (shot)," Norton Children's Medical Associates Pediatrician Dr. Jim Tucker said.

The minimum spacing between the two doses is six months. This week is a good time to get the first dose if you haven't.

Hepatitis A is a food borne illness. It's contagious and usually spreads when a person eats or drinks something contaminated with fecal matter. A lot of times the symptoms are asymptomatic in children.

"They can spread it and not even be aware of it," Dr. Tucker said. "The adult population is a little bit more prone to more progressive infection -- sometimes liver failure or death. The importance of the vaccine in may ways is a public health measure."

Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness says there is a Hepatitis A outbreak in the area, with 82 recorded cases since November.

In a typical year there are around one to four cases. The health department says the outbreak is mostly among the homeless population and people who use illicit drugs.

The good news is that your child might already be vaccinated from Hepatitis A. The shots are recommended for babies at 12 and 18 months.

"Kentucky's old immunization form didn't include a slot for the Hepatitis A documentation," Dr. Tucker said. "There are kids that have received the vaccination but there is no evidence of the old form they used."

That's why when you do call your pediatrician's office, get your child's records and have them include the Hepatitis A documentation.

What will happen if your child doesn't have the immunization? Dr. Tucker said it will be interesting to see how it all plays out at the different districts around the state. Many students may not be able to attend school.

The information JCPS sent to families in December is available online.

It includes information on the new state requirements for both the Hepatitis A vaccine and the Meningitis vaccine.

If students haven't yet had at least one dose administered, families are encouraged to make an appointment with their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

JCPS says students would be able to start next school year with a provisional immunization certificate if they have only received one dose, but will be required to get the second soon after. Still, families are encouraged not to wait. Families with questions about the new state law requirements may contact JCPS Health Services at 502-485-3387.

Another vaccination to keep in mind for students who are 16 and older is the Meningococcal vaccine. They will need 2 doses -- one of which is a booster shot. The booster shot can be given at a minimum of 8 weeks following the first dose.

If your student was 16 or older when the first dose was given then that is all that is required for school attendance.

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