As local students head back to class, most will come armed with the extra protection of being immunized.
All school districts require incoming students to have up-to-date immunizations, though its up to each district to enforce the policy. Parents can submit a waiver, exempting a child from immunizations because of religious reasons. Those exemptions are rare, school officials said.
At USD 257, all of this years incoming kindergartners were fully immunized by the first day of school Wednesday, said Kim Peterson, school nurse.
This is the first year its been that easy, she said. Theres always some who wait until the last minute and couldnt get in or didnt start immunizing until late so theyre playing catch-up.
If families have started the immunization process but are behind, the child can attend school as long as they continue to receive vaccines as required. The district meets with families of prospective kindergarten students in April or May to brief them on expectations. That makes the process easier as the start of the school year approaches.
A few students have exemptions for religious reasons, Peterson said. Students also can receive an exemption for medical reasons, but that requires a doctors permission to exempt the child each year. The district doesnt have any students with a medical exemption, she said.
At Marmaton Valley Elementary School in Moran, secretary Cynthia Johnson said Wednesday she had received the first exemption letter in her 25 years at the school. Otherwise, she said, students almost always come to school fully immunized. If a student shows up without up-to-date records, the district allows them 30 days to obtain the shots.
The Humboldt school district requires students to be fully immunized but district nurse Wendy Froggatte said the policy hasnt been strictly enforced until about the past two years. She estimates nearly all students are up-to-date on their shots and the number of students with exemptions is likely fewer than five.
Its important for students to be fully vaccinated against childhood diseases to protect themselves and others, she said.
Theres going to be a few that dont have their immunizations, Froggatte said. But we all work together as a team to make sure students are protected.
The Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department typically sees a rush of students, mostly incoming kindergarteners and seventh graders, in the week or two before school starts. The department offers a walk-in immunization clinic each Monday. This week, more than a dozen incoming students attended the clinic. Nurse Megan Neville expects that to slow now that school has begun.
The department works closely with school nurses to make sure students and their families keep up-to-date on shots.
Kindergarten students typically receive four immunizations, usually done as two shots. Assuming theyre otherwise up-to-date on the recommended immunization schedule, theyll receive shots for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Varicella (chicken pox) and IPV (polio).
Seventh-graders will receive a TDaP vaccine, which is required. Neville also recommends they receive vaccines to protect against meningitis and the HPV vaccine, which protects against some types of cancers later in life.
Students will need a meningitis vaccine before college, so its good to get one around age 11 or 12 with a second dose due at age 16, Neville said.
Parents typically follow those recommendations, Neville said, although some ask questions about the HPV vaccine. Compared to other vaccines, its still relatively new and parents may have misconceptions about who should receive the vaccine and when, she said. The vaccine protects against cancers caused by the human papilloma virus, which is transmitted during sexual contact. Its recommended for all girls and boys starting at ages 11 or 12, but can be given to children as young as 9 or as old as 21 in men and 26 in women.
People still have a bit of a stigma on HPV, but its a good vaccine to get, Neville said.