Two new vaccines — Meningococcal and Hepatitis A — will be required for school-age children in Newton USD 373 and across Kansas for the 2019-20 school year. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) proposed changes to the vaccine requirement regulations earlier this year and held a public hearing, concluding a 60-day public comment period in June. The regulations were approved by the KDHE and will go into effect on Aug. 2.

“We received many comments and input from all viewpoints,” said KDHE Secretary Lee Norman. “We listened and read all of the input and concerns submitted to us. We looked at the evidence. Both Meningitis and Hepatitis A illnesses are severe and preventable, and the safety profile of the vaccines is well-recognized. As an agency charged to establish policies that protect and improve the lives of Kansans, we felt the addition of the two vaccines was essential for the health and safety of our state.”

For students entering kindergarten and first grade in 2019-2020, two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine will now be required. Students entering seventh grade for the 2019-2020 school year will now need one dose of the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine, as will students entering 11th grade if not vaccinated prior to their 16th birthday. The 11th grade students will need two doses if their first dose was before their 16th birthday.

Meningococcal ACWY vaccines protect against meningococcal disease, which has two common outcomes: meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infections. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease spread through the exchange of nose and throat droplets, such as when coughing, sneezing or kissing. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. With bloodstream infection, symptoms also include a dark purple rash. About one of every 10 people who gets the disease dies from it. Survivors of meningococcal disease may lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become developmentally disabled or suffer seizures or strokes.

The Hepatitis A vaccine protects against the Hepatitis A virus. The virus is spread primarily person to person through the fecal-oral route. In other words, the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, poor appetite, vomiting, stomach pain and sometimes jaundice (when skin and eyes turn yellow). An infected person may have no symptoms, may have mild illness for a week or two, may have severe illness for several months or may rarely develop liver failure and die from the infection. In the U.S., about 100 people a year die from Hepatitis A.

All required/recommended vaccines can reduce the disease burden in school-aged children, thus helping to assure that students will be in school ready to learn. Completely immunized school-aged children are vital in protecting other more vulnerable populations from the devastating effects of the diseases that immunizations can prevent. Proof of receiving the immunizations must be provided to the school prior to attending the first day of school.

Kansas law requires that all students, 8 and under, who are enrolling in a Kansas school for the first time present health assessment information. The assessment needs to have been conducted within the last 12 months before school entry.

Immunization requirements and an assessment form are available at usd373-ks.schoolloop.com/immunization-requirements, while statewide requirements can be found at http://www.kdheks.gov/immunize/schoolInfo.htm

In accordance with KSA 72-6262, legal alternatives to vaccination requirements include medical contraindications and religious beliefs. The medical exemptions signed by a medical clinician must be submitted on an annual basis by the family/guardian of the student. There could also be instances in which a person has a religious belief that prevents them from receiving a particular vaccination. The parent/guardian of the student must submit a written statement indicating they are adherent of a religious denomination whose religious teachings are opposed to such vaccination. The school board or governing body for nonpublic schools are responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations and statutes.

Health assessments and immunizations are available at the Harvey County Health Department by appointment throughout the year. Appointments can be made by calling 283-1637. Upon request, services will be offered on a sliding fee schedule based on income and number of persons in the family.