Students required to have Hep A vaccines before 2018 school year

Published 10:15 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

First round must begin by February

Children in Kentucky schools will need to get two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine before starting school in August of 2018 — the first will need to be given as early as February.

“The hepatitis A doses are administered six months apart,” said Brent Blevins, director of the Boyle County Health Department.

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Boyle County Schools will begin Aug. 15, the same day the Danville Independent School District is considering starting. That decision will be made at Danville’s January school board meeting.

Students aged 16 or older must also have two doses of the meningococcal vaccine before starting school in the fall. If the first dose was administered after the age of 16, the second dose is not required.

While the new Kentucky regulations went into effect June 21 for the 2018 school year, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended the vaccines be administered for several years.

Blevins said the Boyle County Health Department has been giving the hep A vaccines since 2006 because of the recommendations. He said the Meningococcal vaccine is given to fight the Meningococcal disease, a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.

“Children need a booster at 16 for the Meningococcal vaccine because studies have shown the protection provided at the 11-12 year dose wanes within five years following the vaccine,” Blevins said.

Neisseria meningitidis “can lead to infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord and infections of the blood. It can occur without warning, even among healthy people,” he said.

According to a letter to parents from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department for Public Health, the hepatitis A vaccine has been in the news after an outbreak in California.

“Most children with hepatitis A infection have no characteristic symptoms but can easily spread the virus to others. Children with acute hepatitis A disease can have fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, stomach pains and diarrhea or jaundice,” the letter states. Acute liver failure or death can also occur in the most severe cases.

The Vaccines for Children program provides the necessary vaccines for kids if they are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, underinsured, American Indian or Alaska Native, Blevins said.

A current Certificate of Immunization Status must be provided to the school showing the dates the child received their shots; if a children have already received hep A shots, they will not be required to get them again. For those unsure if their child has been administered the shots, they can consult their child’s physician.