TERRE HAUTE —
A task force has formed in Vigo County to educate parents about new student immunization requirements for the 2014-15 school year.
“We want to raise awareness and educate our community” on the new requirements, said Carol Lucas, who chairs the Vigo County School Corp. nursing services department and also chairs the new task force.
The new requirements will require:
• That children entering kindergarten must have two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine.
• That high school seniors must have a meningococcal vaccine booster dose. (The meningococcal booster dose is not required for students entering grade 12 who received the first dose on or after their 16th birthday).
The task force plans an awareness week, April 14-18, with many events planned, in conjunction with National Immunization Week.
“We want to give parents plenty of time by informing them now” so they can ensure children get fully immunized when they schedule doctor visits, Lucas said.
The task force also wants to educate parents as soon as possible, even before a child is born, about immunization requirements. That way, children won’t be behind when they enter school.
“They don’t miss school because of it (lack of immunizations), they are protected and it increases protection in the community,” Lucas said.
While it may seem like children are being required to have more and more immunizations, health officials believe it is important that “when there are vaccine-preventable diseases, we always want to protect kids,” Lucas said.
The hepatitis A vaccine protects against liver disease caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. The disease can cause adults and children to miss a lot of work and school, and it can damage the liver, according to the Children’s Health Network.
Lucas said health officials have seen increased incidents of the disease.
Also, as for as the second meningococcal dose, health officials say immunity is not holding as long as it should with just one dose; when kids graduate from high school and go to college or the workforce, full immunity is not there. “They’re looking at protecting them during the senior year and beyond,” Lucas said.
The immunization task force includes hospitals, community agencies, the ISU College of Nursing Sycamore Nursing Clinic, Vigo County Health Department, Early Head Start, Head Start, VCSC school nurses, private providers and others. It began meeting in December.
The group plans a public awareness campaign with the theme, “Love them. Protect them. Immunize them.”
It also will distribute brochures that list sites, including pharmacies, where families can take children for immunizations.
“We always encourage families to go to their primary care doctor, but in some cases they may need options,” Lucas said.
The group also wants to emphasize immunization beginning even in pregnancy because new recommendations are for pregnant moms to receive Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) during pregnancy to protect newborns from pertussis, or whooping cough, Lucas said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@trib