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President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang
President Pro Tempore
Arkansas Senate
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Little Rock, AR 72201-1090

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Board of Health Revises Immunization Requirements for Young Students

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LITTLE ROCK - Under new immunization requirements being considered by the state Board of Health, children who will be 11 when the school year begins must have at least one shot against tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria.
Public health experts refer to the immunization as a Tdap shot. Parents will be in compliance with Board of Health requirements if they have been taking their children for shots according to the schedule of vaccinations recommended by their family physician.
Prior to this school year, the Tdap shot was required for students entering the seventh grade. The new requirement means that the majority of children will get the required immunization at a younger age, because most children are older than 11 by the time they enter the seventh grade.
The purpose of the change in immunization requirements is to better protect children who are at an age when they are likely to get pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough. It is very contagious and it can cause uncontrollable fits of coughing that make it hard to breathe. Some cases can even be fatal.
Health officials noticed an increase in the number of 10 and 11 year olds who got whooping cough, and that the number of cases declined in children old enough to be in seventh grade. The new requirement is expected to lower the frequency of cases in children who are 10 and 11, according to Health Department officials.
In 2013 public health experts noticed a spike in the number of cases of whooping cough. There were 466 cases reported in Arkansas, compared to 80 cases in 2011, just two years earlier.
The new requirement means that children who will be 11 on or before September 1, 2014, must receive at least one Tdap shot in order to attend a public or a private school.
Parents who choose not to immunize their children must get an exemption from the state Health Department's Immunization Section. To do so, call 501-661-2169 or contact the department at this email address:
Another new requirement for children's immunizations that will take effect in the coming school year is that seventh graders must have received a meningococcal shot against meningitis. Also, students will have to receive a shot before they turn 16, regardless of their grade level. If they had a meningococcal shot before their 16th birthday, they will need to have a second one. Students who are 16 on or before September 1 will have until October 1 to get the shot.
There is a change in regulations governing chickenpox. Previously, children could forego the shot if a parent could show they had actually contracted the disease, but that method was beginning to prove unreliable. Under the new regulations, it will require the report of a medical professional for a child to avoid taking the chickenpox shot. It is also called varicella.
There are several other changes in the required scheduling of immunizations. Following the recommendations of your family physician will more than satisfy the minimum requirements set out by the Board of Health.
The Health Department has an immunization registry that physicians, clinics and health care providers can access. The registry is a record of the immunizations given to children in Arkansas. Health care providers are obligated to report to the registry all immunizations they give to anyone under the age of 22.


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