State changes requirements for vaccines, exams

Kathie Johnson, RN - Health department

Each year, the CDC, ACIP and the North Carolina State Immunization Branch review and research vaccine preventable diseases and revise requirements for our children to receive vaccines to protect themselves as well as the community against life threatening conditions. For years the focus has been on getting children vaccinated prior to entering school to prevent the spread of diseases such as Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Tetanus, and Polio.

They not only focus on these children, they focus on adolescents as well. A few years ago when the CDC and ACIP recommended all adolescents receive Tdap vaccine, the state made it a requirement for adolescents to receive their Tdap vaccine when entering the 6th grade. This vaccine acts as a booster to the Dtap shots they received as small children to better protect them against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (also known as the whooping cough).

Starting in 2015, the state decided to make the Tdap a requirement for 7th graders instead of 6th and to also make it a requirement for those entering the 7th grade to receive the Meningococcal vaccine. They can both be given safely at the same time. Meningitis is a very rapid and potentially life threatening disease that is more common in close, congregate settings such as schools and college dorms. Studies have shown that vaccinating adolescents early and administering a booster vaccine before they enter college will provide the most protection against this disease.

This is why North Carolina has decided to make these vaccines a requirement for school aged children. The Sampson County Health Department developed a plan to hold Tdap and Meningococcal Vaccine clinics in every school district in the county each spring. Starting in 2016, the rising 7th graders received both vaccines. The health department works very diligently with the local school nurses to provide information on these required vaccines so parents can become more knowledgeable about the vaccines their children receive.

The state is also now requiring all students entering North Carolina Schools for the first time to have a physical exam, regardless of age. In the past, only children entering Pre-K or Kindergarten were required to have a physical exam. Effective July 1, 2016, all students entering North Carolina Schools for the first time must now have the exam. This includes all students from Pre-K through 12th grade.

If you have any questions about vaccines, the new immunization requirements or the new physical exam requirements or to make an appointment for your child to receive their vaccines or physical exam, please contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, ext. 4001, 4220, 4960, 4972 or 4969.

Kathie Johnson, RN

Health department

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