March 15, 2010
By Sean Dreher
For the first time in more than a decade, the state is changing what vaccines are required for children before they can head to school.
Most of the changes take effect in July, but not everyone plans to rush to their doctor's office.
With a business devoted to providing for children and triplets of her own at home, Sunny Hall has experience with kids. She also has experience with vaccines.
"I never questioned it," she said.
After the birth of her children, Hall followed the advice of experts.
"We were all fine until six months. We went in and got their shots and when we got home my son just wasn't right," she said.
As a result, Hall has no plans of following the state's new requirements.
"From what all I've read, and my personal experience, my kids are not going to get any vaccines any time soon," she said.
"The recommendations are aimed at preschool children, kindergarten children, and 7th graders," said Mary Ann Harrison, a registered nurse at the Knox County Health Department.
Under the new plan, children will be required to get Hepatitis B (HBV), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and Hepatitus A vaccines. They will need their final dose of Poliomyelitis (IPV or OPV) on or after their 4th birthday, two doses of Varicella or history of the disease, and two doses of Hepatitis A vaccines before kindergarten. A Tetanus-diptheria-pertussis booster (Tdap) and verification of immunity to Varicella (two doses or history of the disease) will be required before entering 7th grade.
Previously the vaccines were only recommended, not required. They are available to children at no cost at the Knox County Health Department.
"When children are together, there's lots of things being shared and lots of germs being shared. They're not just protecting those in the school, they're protecting the little ones at home, they're protecting the older ones at home," Harrison said.
Still, Hall believes getting vaccinations should be a parent's choice.
"It is a personal decision, and no one in a white coat is going to force me to inject my child with something that I know is harmful to them," she said.
One thing that will not change is a parent's ability to decline vaccines based on health concerns or religious beliefs. In those cases parents can submit written explanations to the schools.
Barbara Loe Fisher, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)
Maryn McKenna, CIDRAP News
Neil Z. Miller, ThinkTwice Global Vaccine Institute