Writer & Photographer / Julie Yates
As the school year ends, many parents begin making plans for their children to enroll in seasonal activities, sports training and camps. This year, families might also want to include booking a doctor’s appointment to ensure their child’s immunizations comply with the new Indiana vaccination requirements. While most of the requirements are the same as the immunization schedule of the 2013-2014 school years, there are important changes for students entering kindergarten, as well as those who are beginning their senior year.
What has changed?
Early childhood vaccinations have traditionally been part of routine yearly physicals or well-care visits. In Indiana, by the time they are five years old, preschool children receive these vaccinations: three hepatitis B, four DTaP (diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis), three polio, one MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and one varicella. Then, before enrolling in kindergarten, they are required booster vaccinations of DTaP, Polio, MMR and varicella. Now, however, every child must have two hepatitis A vaccinations by the first day of kindergarten.
Another change parents need to be aware of is that obtaining a second meningococcal shot is now a prerequisite for entering the 12th grade. Under the old guidelines, once a student entering the sixth grade fulfilled the requirements of getting one Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) and one MCV4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine), they had completed the mandatory immunization schedule for Indiana. Due to the current changes in effect, students must now get the meningococcal booster before they can begin their senior year.
Reasons for the changes
According to Lisa Brown, Director of Nursing for the Johnson County Health Department, the state of Indiana made the new immunization requirements after receiving recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency endorsed the Hepatitis A series for infants since it is an acute infectious disease that can be passed by food handlers—for example by a drive-thru restaurant worker. In addition, the CDC has tracked an increase in meningitis cases of college freshmen living in dorms. Due to that data, the recommendation for a second meningococcal vaccination for 16-year-olds and older resulted.
Best not to wait until last minute
Not complying with the new Indiana vaccination requirements risks the health of children, and schools will not admit students before parents supply records showing that the students have been immunized in accordance with the rules. Brown stated, “Each year the county health department gets a huge influx of calls from parents needing to get their children vaccinated at the last minute. Parents have the whole summer to get this done, so don’t wait.”
Besides getting immunizations at a physician’s office, the Johnson County Health Department is also an option for parents. The phone number for the Vaccines for Children Program is 317-346-4368. It is wise to heed Brown’s advice: “It is easier on everyone if parents get this done ahead of time so their children will not miss any school.” Make a visit to the pediatrician or family doctor part of your summer plans.