Children in Alaska will need five additional immunizations to be allowed to attend school next year. The state mandate for the additional shots takes effect July 1.
To help get the word out in coming months, the state is spending $20,000 on a media campaign.
“The last thing that we want is for children to be excluded from school,” said Laurel Wood, the state’s immunization program manager.
The state held public hearings before it changed the code to require the additional shots. Wood said schools will be enforcing it starting the first day of school in fall.
The shots are for mumps and hepatitis A and B. Children in child-care facilities also will be required to have those shots and two others, chickenpox and haemophilus influenzae type b.
Full-page ads in every newspaper in the state are planned or have occurred, Wood said. Posters and pamphlets for the schools to give parents were expected to be ready by the end of January.
“Even though they have just been mandated, they have always been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Fairbanks public health nurse Shelly Anderson. “They are not new vaccines. Many kids have already had them.”
And many have not. Anderson has been organizing shot clinics in the schools since October and is orchestrating a big push in the schools the next two months. She said most schools will be holding clinics where the shots will be available for free.
The vaccinations take a minimum of six months to complete. Children need only be started on their shots to be eligible for school or day care next fall. Exemptions for religious and medical reasons will be accepted.