Back to School: New Vaccination Requirements

from the August 2015 issue of Simply Family Magazine. Check out the digital edition, here

Recent changes to vaccination requirements for school-aged children in Montana are being implemented on October 1, 2015 through House Bill 158 that Governor Bulluck signed into law. For parents, the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) encourages them to start planning now in order for their child to be in compliance by the start of school. In accordance with the new law, two doses of the Chickenpox (varicella) vaccination are required for K-12th graders, as well as one dose of the Whooping Cough (pertussis) vaccination for 7th-12th graders.

Until now, the series of Chickenpox vaccinations was not required in Montana - the only state not requiring the two doses.  As parents, you might recall your experience with Chickenpox not being incredibly horrible; however, in recent years, the disease is becoming more dangerous, especially for infants and adults. The addition of the Chickenpox vaccination is intended to decrease the potential harm; if your child has already experienced Chickenpox, you are allowed to provide documentation from their Primary Care Provider (PCP) in lieu of the vaccination series.

As one of five states that did not require a booster vaccination for Whooping Cough, Montana is taking additional steps to protect its students from disease. Whooping Cough can lead to pneumonia or death, 7th–12th graders will now receive additional protection. The tetanus/diphtheria (Tdap) vaccination is still required for these students as well.

Karmen Hammermeister, a Registered Nurse with RiverStone Health, advises parents not to delay getting their child the required vaccinations. The new law is a positive move in protecting our children and in conjunction, our entire community, from the spread of disease. Karmen encourages parents to research the new vaccinations on the Center for Disease Control website, where a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is available to educate parents.  Asking your Primary Care Provider questions during your visit is another great way to obtain more information. There are still medical and religious exemptions allowed with appropriate documentation; however, Karmen states, “choosing not to immunize your children is choosing to increase their risk for disease.”

RiverStone Health is offering additional “Back to School Clinics” prior to the start of school: Thursday, August 13th; Tuesday, August 18th; Thursday, August 20th; Tuesday, August 25th and Thursday, August 27th from 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm. You can also visit RiverStone Health at 123 South 27th Street at the walk-in immunization clinic Mondays 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Wednesdays 11:00 am – 5:30pm and Fridays 1:00 – 4:30 pm.