You may have heard about new vaccine requirements in Kentucky for school-age children, and as a parent and a pediatrician, I’m happy to give you more info about what to expect.
In mid-2017, the Kentucky Department for Public Health unveiled new vaccine requirements: The first is two-doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine, and the second is a booster for the meningitis vaccine. These vaccines aren’t new, and many children have already received them and won’t need another shot.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is even more important because of recent events. In late November, the Kentucky Department of Public Health warned healthcare providers throughout the state of a Hepatitis A outbreak. The state has confirmed 31 cases, far above the yearly average of 20 cases per year. No cases were reported in Daviess County, but one case was confirmed in nearby Hopkins County.
Hepatitis A and meningitis are illnesses that nobody wants to get. I also encourage parents to have themselves and their children vaccinated for the flu, as it’s far more likely children will get the flu than any other disease at this time of year.
Disease type: Virus
Spreads through: Contaminated food or water
Symptoms: Flu-like, including fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, low-grade fever and jaundice (yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin)
Duration: One to two months
Severity: Can sometimes be very serious and in rare cases can be fatal
Disease type: Most commonly bacteria or virus
Spreads through: Close contact (living with an infected individual), sneezing and coughing
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered mental status or confusion
Duration: Highly variable
Severity: Extremely dangerous, with high risk of death or permanent disabilities, including deafness or brain damage.
It’s also important for parents to know why we vaccinate. Vaccines are like a “cheat sheet” for your immune system. Using either dead virus or a weakened one, your immune system can be taught how to defend against that illness. Vaccines also don’t just protect those vaccinated. When large groups of people are vaccinated, viruses can’t travel from person to person. This is called “herd immunity” and that means it’s less likely that people who can’t be vaccinated will get sick.
One thing I often tell parents who are worried about vaccines is what I do for my three children. My twin daughters are 6 and my son is 8. I would never give a parent advice that I wouldn’t take myself, and all three of my children get every vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes the flu vaccine, which they’ve received every year since they were six months old, which is the earliest they could get it. My kids also get their vaccines in my office, so they get the same vaccines as all our other patients.
If you have questions about whether or not your child needs a vaccine covered by these new requirements, I encourage you to contact your child’s pediatrician, as they can let you know what is needed. I want to encourage parents not to wait until the last minute, since we can only give so many shots in one day and we can’t do them all the week before school starts.
You should also talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions about the vaccines themselves. We want you all to be happy and healthy year-round, and we’re always happy to be a resource if it will help you and your child feel safe.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with an Owensboro Health provider, call 844-446-9663.