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State Health Department announces updated school immunization requirements

ALBANY – The New York State Department of Health (DOH) announced it has revised immunization requirements for school attendance to meet updated national standards. The updated requirements, which do not add any new vaccines for school entry, but update the number of doses required and the minimum intervals between doses, go into effect today, July 1, 2014.

The changes were made so that New York's immunization requirements are consistent with the most current childhood and adolescent immunization recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is a group of medical and public health experts that develops recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the U.S. These recommendations are intended to help reduce the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases.

"Immunizations protect children from serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles, and have an excellent track record of safety and effectiveness," said Acting State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D. "I encourage parents to talk to their children's healthcare provider and work with their school's health services to ensure that all immunizations are up-to-date."

Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of today's vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent. These diseases can be especially serious for young children. That is why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the U.S. and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect people from potential outbreaks. Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can be brought into the country by infected individuals, putting unvaccinated people at risk.

The new requirements, which apply to daycare, head start, nursery, pre-kindergarten and grades kindergarten through 12, represent the continued effort to protect students from vaccine-preventable diseases. The changes mark the first update to school immunization requirements in over a decade, and include:

  • Students entering kindergarten or 6th grade in the 2014-2015 school year will now be required to have two doses of the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine and 3-5 doses of poliomyelitis vaccine. The updated varicella and polio vaccination requirements will be phased in over the next seven years and will be required for all grades by the 2020-2021 school year.
  • For all other required vaccines, students in day care, head start, nursery, pre-kindergarten and grades kindergarten through 12 will be required to have age-appropriate doses in accordance with the ACIP schedule.
  • A student who is in process is defined as one who has had the first dose of vaccine in all of the required immunization series and has appointments to complete the series in accordance with the ACIP catch up schedule. See www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html. A student who is in process must be allowed to attend school.
  • Students may present proof of immunity by serology (blood test) for the following immunizations: measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, and poliomyelitis.
  • Medical exemptions to immunizations must be reissued annually. The written exemption must identify the immunization exempted, the medical contraindication for the exemption, and the length of time the immunization is contraindicated. A sample medical exemption form is available at www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/schools.
  • Any child who has been vaccinated according to the ACIP recommendations, which are followed by most health care providers, should not need further vaccinations in order to attend day care or school.

More detailed information, including an immunization chart outlining the new requirements for the 2014-2015 school year, frequently asked questions regarding the school immunization regulations and a webinar presented by DOH staff reviewing the updated school immunization regulations are available at DOH's Immunization website: www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/schools/updated_school_imm_requirements.htm.