Normally, vaccine records are only required for entry into kindergarten and sixth grade, but this year Kentucky schools will be checking every student to make sure they are up to date on the two new required vaccines: hepatitis A and a meningitis booster for students 16 and older.
"We encourage parents to contact their medical provider to review their child’s immunization status to help ensure a smooth back-to-school transition for the upcoming year," Public Health Commissioner Jeffrey D. Howard said in a news release.
The state now requires all school-aged children in kindergarten through 12th grade to show proof of having received two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine to attend school.
Because the two-dose hepatitis A vaccine is given six months apart, the state health department recognizes that some students may have only received one dose when school starts -- and that's OK, according to the news release.
The health department says if a student has not yet received the second dose of the hepatitis A vaccine for this school year, the student's immunization record will be considered "provisional" and will expire 14 days after the second dose is required.
In addition to the hepatitis A vaccine, students 16 and older are required to get a meningitis booster, called the meningococcal ACWY vaccine. This means that their immunization record must show proof of having received two doses of the vaccine.
However, it's important to note that if the first dose of the meningitis vaccine was received at age 16 or older, the second dose is not required for school entry.
The new requirements add to the list of vaccines required for students entering kindergarten and sixth grade.
Those entering kindergarten are required to have the combined TDAP vaccine for for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; a measles-mumps-ruebella vaccine; and vaccines for hepatitis B, polio and chicken pox.
Students entering sixth grade are required to have all of the immunizations that were required to enter kindergarten, as well as a TDAP booster, a meningitis vaccine, and a second chicken-pox vaccine.
The HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus, is recommended for 11- and 12-year old boys and girls, but is not required. HPV infections cause more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers and around 70 percent of vaginal, vulvar, penile and middle throat cancers, and two of the HPV strains are associated with more than 90 percent of anal and genital warts.
Flu vaccine is also recommended for school-aged children every year as soon as it is available, but is not required. This vaccine is especially important for those with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
Vaccines are generally covered as a no-cost preventive service by most health insurance plans. But if your child does not have health insurance, you should contact your local health department for assistance.
Any child with a medical condition who is unable to receive the vaccines will be issued a medical exemption certificate by their health-care provider.
And if a parent chooses not to immunize a child based on religious objections, the parent must complete a sworn and notarized religious exemption form that can be found online. All immunization forms can be found on the Kentucky Immunization Program and Kentucky Department of Education websites.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds parents that it is never too late to catch up on their child's missed immunizations, and that primary care providers can help set up an adjusted immunization schedule.