Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 2, 2014

State warns of vaccine rules

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Several new vaccination requirements are on the horizon for Illinois schools, but some local educators say they don’t believe the updated guidelines will cause any difficulties with registration.

“I don’t see there being a problem,” said Mike Green, superintendent of District 80 Schools. “It’s just working with the parents and letting them know the laws have changed. … I think any time you can help protect a child’s health, it’s a good thing.”

Starting next school year, 2014-2015, students entering school at the kindergarten through 12th grade levels will need to show proof of having received two doses each of rubella and mumps vaccines. Previously, they just had to show proof of receiving one dose each.

In addition next year, any child entering kindergarten, sixth or ninth grade will have to show proof of having received two doses of varicella (chicken pox) vaccine instead of only one.

Then, for the following school year, 2015-2016, all students will have to show proof of having received a meningococcal vaccination, which is not currently required.

The new state requirements bring Illinois in line with updated federal guidelines, said Melaney Arnold, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“It’s to make students and the community safer,” Arnold said. “We try to push out the information as much as possible.”

Deanna Metje, supervising nurse for District 80, said many students will have already received the two doses for mumps and rubella as part of their MMR vaccinations.

“If they had two MMRs, they are in compliance,” Metje said. “But if they had each of those shots separately, we may have to look at it.”

Metje said school officials send vaccination information home to parents well in advance of registration.

Also, during last year’s District 80 registration event, officials with the Jefferson County Health Department and Good Samaritan Regional Health Center were on hand to provide physicals for students. The health department also offered vaccinations during registration, Metje said.

“We had a lot of students take part in that last year,” Metje said of the vaccinations.

In many districts, students who do not have their vaccination documents ready by registration still have time to meet the requirements. There is an Oct. 15 exclusion date, which is the deadline for meeting requirements so students can be enrolled for that school year, Metje said.

“If they don’t have it by then, their student will be excluded from school,” Metje said.

Mark Zahm, superintendent of Summersville Grade School, said he also does not foresee any challenges with the new guidelines.

The only issue for parents may be getting a doctor’s appointment in time for school registration, he said. Even so, with the exclusion date being in October, it gives them a little more time, he said.

“I don’t see it really affecting registration,” Zahm said.

Not all area schools, however, follow the exclusion date policy. For example, Rome Grade School requires all students to meet the vaccination guidelines before entering school.

Still, Rome Superintendent Dwain Baldridge said the new vaccination rules should not cause a problem for his district. School officials will be sending information to parents soon about the new guidelines, he said.

“We’re blessed with some very cooperative parents,” Baldridge said. “We’ll try to get the word out by the end of the year about the changes to make sure everybody knows.”