(8/15) State and local officials have been working since last year to prepare Maryland parents and schools for new school immunization requirements for students entering kindergarten and 7th grade this fall. All kindergartners must have had two chickenpox (varicella) vaccinations. All 7th graders must receive a pertussis booster (Tdap) and dose of meningitis vaccines.
School officials and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) are urging parents to make sure their child is appropriately immunized against these diseases prior to the start of school. Children may be excluded from school if they do not have these vaccinations.
"We have spent the past year helping parents and schools prepare for these school immunization requirements," said Dr. Laura Herrera, Deputy Secretary for DHMH Public Health Services. "We want to be sure all Maryland children start the school year with up-to-date vaccinations and are ready to learn."
Immunizations are one of public health’s greatest triumphs. With the exception of safe water, no other health strategy-- not even the creation of antibiotics--has had such a tremendous effect on reducing disease. Despite the availability of safe and effective immunizations, thousands of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases occur in the United States every year. Consider
the following facts about varicella, pertussis and meningitis:
- Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that can be spread before a person knows they have the disease.
- Chickenpox can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and brain damage.
- One out of five people who get meningococcal meningitis experience serious complications, such as the loss of limb(s), permanent hearing loss, or mental impairment.
- In recent years, adolescents (11-18 yrs) and adults (19 yrs and older) have accounted for an increasing proportion of pertussis cases.
- Infants who are at highest risk for complications and death due to pertussis are often infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
In preparation for the new requirements, local health departments are holding special back-to-school clinics throughout the state. Parents should call their doctor or local health department to learn if their child needs any of the school-required vaccinations and make arrangements to receive the missing vaccines so their child will not be excluded from school.