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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Children who will be 11 years of age or older on or before September 1 of each school year will be required to receive a Tdap shot in order to attend public or private school in Arkansas. This new requirement is anticipated to be effective September 1, 2014. Previously a Tdap shot was required for students entering Grade 7. Only one Tdap is required, so children who have already received the shot will not need another. Students who will be 11 years old on or before September 1 will have until October 1 to meet this new shot requirement.

The purpose of this change is to better protect Arkansas school children in the age groups with the highest rates of pertussis. Pertussis is also called whooping cough. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing fits, which often makes it hard to breathe. In some cases, it can result in death. In 2013, there were 466 cases of pertussis in Arkansas, up from 80 cases in 2011. Since the disease is highly contagious and easily spread from person to person, the best pertussis protection for older children and adults is through the Tdap shot. The Tdap shot also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.

Proposed immunization requirements for students in both private and public school who are entering the upcoming school year include:

  • Kindergarten and Grade 1: students need one Hepatitis A shot that was given on or after their first birthday.
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: students need to complete a series of three polio shots. One of the shots must have been given on or after the student'sfourth birthday.

Other immunization requirements that will be effective Sept. 1, 2014 include:

  • Grade 7: students need a meningococcal shot. Students turning age 16 years on or before September 1 regardless of their grade will also need a meningococcal shot of they have not already had one. If they have had one prior to turning 16, they will need a second shot. Students turning age 16 years on or before September 1 will have until October 1 to meet this new requirement.
  • Grades 1 through 12: students need to have completed a series of four DTaP shots with one given on or after the student's fourth birthday. Only three DTaP shots are required if the student did not receive any before age 7 years. The DTaP shot is the pertussis shot for young children. It also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: students need to complete a series of two varicella shots. Varicella is also called chickenpox. History of disease can be provided in lieu of getting the shot, but only if it is reported by a medical professional.

There are also changes to the requirements for attending childcare facilities, such as daycares, in Arkansas. In addition to the previous requirements, children in childcare will need one or two Hepatitis A shots, depending on their age. Children will need one to four Polio shots, depending on their age, and to wait at least six months after the third polio shot before getting the fourth one.

The complete immunization requirements can be found on the Arkansas Department of Health's Rules & Regulations webpage at

http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/aboutADH/Pages/RulesRegulationsProposed.aspx

. Please note that the requirements do not include all of the shots that are recommended for children. For information about all of the recommended shots, please talk to your doctor or nurse. You may also get information about recommended shots from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at this link:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html

.

These shots are available through local health units and through primary care doctors. If you have insurance, please bring your insurance cards with you to the health unit. If you do not have insurance, or your insurance does not pay, the local health unit will provide the vaccines to your child at no charge to you. Some pharmacies also provide shots to children age 7 and older. We recommend that you call ahead to confirm that the pharmacy can provide the shot to your child.

Parents or guardians will need to give a copy of their child's shot records to the childcare director or school nurse to show that their child has received the required shots. For children who may not receive a required shot because they already had the disease, parents or guardians will need to give the childcare director or school nurse medical documents to prove that the child had the disease.

If a parent or guardian does not want their child to receive a required shot, they must get an exemption before the start of the 2014-2015 school year. Exemption forms may be requested from the Immunization Section of the Arkansas Department of Health by calling 501-661-2169 or via email at immunization.section@arkansas.gov.

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