Posted on: July 22, 2014
Back-to-School Preparations May Need to Include Vaccinations
By Dr. Pete Richel
Your child may need a new vaccination before classes start this fall. For the first time in more than a decade, New York State has updated its school immunization requirements, and now children must be vaccinated twice against varicella—chicken pox.
Prior to July of this year, parents could opt out of the second chicken pox vaccine. Why the shift? After all, many adults may remember chicken pox parties from their youth: Mothers would take children to visit a sick kid so that their children would be exposed, get ill, and gain immunity. Although chicken pox can be relatively mild, it can also cause permanent scarring and in some cases turn deadly. As recently as 10 years ago—before use of the vaccine was widespread—the US had as many as 100 deaths a year from chicken pox. From a public health perspective and from mine as a doctor, one death is too many. If we can eliminate this risk, we should seize that opportunity.
There have been some other minor changes to the immunization requirements, such as stipulating a schedule of three to five polio vaccinations before starting school. This has to do with timing. If your child has received the required three polio vaccines in infancy, they must still receive one at the time of school entrance. Three are required, and four are recommended for complete immunization. In either case, one must be received between the ages of 4 and 6. The new requirements—which will be phased in over the next seven years—apply to students starting daycare, Head Start, nursery, pre-kindergarten, and grades kindergarten through 12. If you’ve already taken your children for their wellness visit and vaccinations—or you’re not sure if your child is vaccinated against chicken pox—contact your pediatrician.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Peter Richel, MD, FAAP is Chief of Pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital.