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Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Kindergartners will need two more immunizations

July 31, 2004

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Children may be excited about the idea of starting school -- buying new clothes, making new friends.

But here's something they probably won't like: immunizations. Students ages 12 to 15 may need a shot for tetanus and diphtheria. But their one booster shot is nothing compared to the five types of shots children entering kindergarten need.

For years, it has been required that children entering kindergarten must have shots for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); polio; and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). This year, two shots have been added to the list: vaccinations against hepatitis B and chicken pox.

"The Kansas Legislature looked at the regulations and requiring the two vaccinations puts us more in line with the rest of the nation," said Martha Siemsen, assistant director of the Kansas Immunization program. "I think this is a nationwide movement."

Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, sees the movement as a good thing.

"Chicken pox, certainly, is very contagious," she said. "Most people think it's a mild illness, but it is possible to develop serious complications from it."

Based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, immunization rates for chicken pox and hepatitis B for children between 19 months and 3 years in Kansas have improved or remained steady between July 2000 and June 2003.

Statewide, the percentage of children to be vaccinated against chicken pox increased to 78 percent by June 2003 from 58 percent in June 2001. Vaccination against hepatitis B decreased by about 1 percent to 90.9 percent in July 2003 from 91.7 percent in July 2001.

Siemsen and Schnitker said the vaccinations against hepatitis B and chicken pox were considered safe and effective.

Siemsen said 95 percent of the people vaccinated against hepatitis B were protected. The chicken pox vaccine is 80 to 90 percent effective, she said.

People can get vaccinations by going to their private physician or the county health department, 200 Maine, Suite B. For more information, people can call the health department at 843-0721.

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