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Students facing new requirements on immunizations

Parents may have to spend an extra $20 to get their childimmunized for school registrations this year under new requirementsannounced by the Mississippi Department of Health recently, but alocal school official said the move should keep more children inclass.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendedthat children trying to enroll in any childcare facility or schoolin the state receive a new immunization and increased the dosage onan existing requirement.

Children under 5 years old entering child care for the firsttime will be required to have the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine(PCV7), otherwise known as “Prevnar,” for pneumonia beginning Aug.1. By January, Prevnar will be required for all children, includingthose already enrolled in childcare.

Research has shown Prevnar virtually eliminates invasivepneumococcal disease, including meningitis, in infants and youngchildren, said Joy Sennett, MDH’s director of communicable diseasesdepartment.

Children entering school for the first time will additionally berequired to have two doses of the chickenpox vaccine instead of onebeginning Aug. 1. A single dose of the vaccine, or a history ofchickenpox, became a requirement for entry into childcare or5-year-old kindergarten in 2002.

Danita Hobbs, principal at Mamie Martin Elementary School, saidpast experience has shown that the immunizations work.

“We definitely have seen a drop in chickenpox since the firstdose was required in 2002,” Hobbs said.

Sennett said research indicates a success rate of 80 to 85percent with one dose, but increases to more than 90 percent withtwo doses.

Hobbs said the two illnesses have not been common causes formissed days here, but she welcomed the change in immunizationrequirements.

“At this age you’re going to see chickenpox and pneumonia, butwe haven’t seen anything excessive,” she said. “We need our kids atschool to teach them, so whatever we can do to improve that we’llsupport.”

Both vaccines are available at all county health departments andVaccines for Children program providers at a $10 fee for eachvaccine.