Health & Fitness

Schools in Kansas require two new immunizations this year. Are your kids up-to-date?

Kansas has new vaccination requirements. Are your students prepared?

Starting Aug. 2, Kansas students entering kindergarten and first grade will be required to receive vaccinations for hepatitis A, while seventh- and 11th-graders will need a meningitis vaccination.
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Starting Aug. 2, Kansas students entering kindergarten and first grade will be required to receive vaccinations for hepatitis A, while seventh- and 11th-graders will need a meningitis vaccination.

If your children are of-age to attend school, you might want to double check the vaccination requirements—a couple more are on the list.

For the incoming school year, Kansas will require students to receive two additional vaccines: the Hepatitis A and Meningococcal immunizations.

“Both of these illnesses are severe and preventable,” said Kristi Pankratz, communications director for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in an emailed statement.

Earlier this summer, parents pushed back at the added immunization requirements in a Kansas Department of Health and Environment public forum.

“Vaccine science is tobacco science,” said Tasha Haas, a writing instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College who spoke against the requirement.

The recent push back in Kansas is part of a larger, national conversation about vaccinations and immunization. In some states battling outbreaks of the measles, like California and New York, religious exemptions for vaccination requirements were eliminated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains the safety of vaccinations and keeps a list of recommended immunizations for people who travel, have specific illnesses, are of a certain age and other groups of people. The CDC also stresses that there is not a link between vaccinating a child and them later being diagnosed with autism.

The CDC also attributes new outbreaks of the measles in the United States to a rise in people abstaining from required vaccinations across the country.

In Kansas, exemptions are still available for documented religious and medical concerns, but all school children who attend a public or private school are expected to comply with the vaccination requirements.

Pankratz said the Kansas Department of Health annually sends out surveys to schools with kindergarten classes to tabulate immunization exemption rates across the state. During the 2017 to 2018 academic year in Kansas, Pankratz said less than two percent of students in Kansas qualified for exemptions, most of which were for religious reasons. Less than one percent of immunization exemptions are for medical reasons.

In Wichita Public School’s for the 2018 to 2019 academic year, the district documented 473 total religious exemptions and 71 medical exemptions out of the more than 50,000 students enrolled, Susan Arnesman, spokesperson for USD 259, said.

In the spring, the school district sent home information with its students about the added vaccination requirements. At enrollment, which started on July 29, parents meet with the nurse at their children’s school to discuss any required vaccinations the student needs.

As far as Arnesman knows, there hasn’t been any kind of anger from parents in the school district about the new requirements.

“As far as families go, I don’t know,” Arnesman said. “I haven’t heard anything negative, positive, anything.”

With the new regulations, students are expected to have documentation of seven vaccines, some of which require multiple doses. With some variation, students enrolled at any school in Kansas must receive five doses of the Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis immunization, two doses of the Hepatitis A and three doses of Hepatitis B vaccines, two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, two doses of the Meningococcal, or the serogroup A,C,W and Y, immunization, four doses of the IPV or OPV Poliomyelitis vaccine and finally the Varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine.

An additional vaccine exemption is available for the Varicella vaccine if students have documented proof of previous infection with the virus.

Additionally, it is recommended by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that school-age children receive the immunization for Influenza annually and two doses of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine around the age of 11.

Pankratz said “the safety profile of the vaccines are well-recognized” by scientific authorities like the CDC and other organizations like the FDA.

Compliance enforcement for Kansas’ vaccination requirements is under the purview of each school district’s governing body, like a school board. School boards can decided to exclude students from their districts if their parents refuse to comply with state requirements.

In Wichita’s USD 259 district, parents have until Oct. 17 to produce a vaccination record for their children.

“If they have not (provided) it by Oct. 17, they will be excluded at that point,” Arnesman said.

Leading up to that deadline, Arnesman said the school district will send out several notifications to parents.

“A majority of vaccines can cause a mild reaction in some people,” Pankratz said.

According to the CDC safety index, such minor reactions might include a injection site pain, a low-grade fever, headache, fatigue or a low-grade fever.

For concerns about vaccinations or to obtain immunization records, contact your family physician or general care provider.

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