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New Immunization Rules Begin This School Year

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School is right around the corner and Michigan’s health department is stressing the importance of vaccinating your kids.

Dr. Greg Holzman, Chief Medical Executive at the Department of Community Health, says new rules are in effect for all school kids, including getting vaccinated for pertussis – commonly known as “whooping-cough” – a very serious and contagious disease.

For this upcoming school year, new immunization rules are in effect for all children entering kindergarten, 6th grade and students changing school districts.  As part of the new rules, these students are required to receive two doses of varicella vaccine. 

Also, all children 11 to 18 years of age who are changing school districts or who are enrolled in the 6th grade are required to receive one dose of meningococcal vaccine and one dose of tetanus/diphtheria/acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.

“These rules changes are designed to help prevent school-aged children from contracting illnesses such as meningitis and pertussis,” said Holzman.

Holzman said it’s crucial to vaccinate others that have contact with infants.

“We call this ‘cocooning,’ Holzman said.  “By making sure older siblings, new parents, health care workers, and others that are around infants are up to date on their pertussis booster vaccine, we help prevent infants from contracting this deadly disease.”

“Fifty percent of the infants under the age of one, who contract pertussis will end up getting hospitalized,” Holzman said.  “And one in a hundred of those children, will actually die from the disease,” he said.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) and the Michigan Osteopathic Association (MOA) are recognizing August as Immunization Awareness Month.

“In the last few years, Michigan has seen a significant increase in pertussis and we hope these rules will help lower the number of cases,” he said.

From 2003-2007 the average annual number of pertussis cases reported was about 340.  In 2008, 315 cases were reported. That number has jumped to 902 cases in 2009, and so far this year, about 560 cases.

“Back-to-school physicals and checkups are a great opportunity for health professionals to remind parents and guardians about how important it is for children to be fully vaccinated,” Holzman said.

“Childhood immunizations are one of the best ways for parents and guardians to protect their children against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

For more information about immunizations, visit www.michigan.gov/immunize.

(Copyright 2010 by WWJ Newsradio 950.  All Rights Reserved)

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