DeKALB – August marks National Immunization Awareness month, and with it comes changes in Illinois.
Beginning this fall, all sixth-grade students must be vaccinated against hepatitis B, instead of fifth-graders. Students of all ages also must prove they have received two doses of both live rubella and mumps virus vaccines, instead of just one. Students entering kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades for the first time must show proof of receiving two doses of varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine, instead of one.
Melaney Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman, said the second dose requirements are in response to a waning immunity for children as they get older, to provide an extra measure of protection.
"A lot of times people haven't seen some of these diseases," Arnold said. "[National Immunization Awareness Month] is a reminder that these diseases are still out there. They may not be endemic to the United States, but they are only a plane ride away."
Parents and guardians can contact the DeKalb County Health Department or their health care provider to schedule an appointment to receive the required vaccinations. Cindy Graves, DeKalb County Health Department director of community health and prevention, said many preventable diseases can be avoided by being vaccinated.
"It works to prevent the spread of illness, especially in schools where kids are in close proximity of each other," Graves said. "It's very important to do everything you can to prevent exposures."
Graves said the health department is anticipating another vaccination requirement, additional doses of the meningitis vaccine, from the state for the next school year for students entering sixth and12th grades, so the department has been trying to get children vaccinated for it now, while they are already visiting for other vaccinations.
"One dose doesn't always cover everybody as much," Graves said. "A second dose kind of seals the deal."
Arnold said this month serves as a reminder not only to parents of children, but adults who need vaccinations recommended by their physician, as well. Graves said "it's never too late to vaccinate."
"[Immunizations are] the most cost effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death," Arnold said.
Immunization information: Illinois Help Me Grow helpline 800-323-GROW
DeKalb County Health Department: 815-758-6673
For parents who may not be able to afford immunizations, call Vaccines for Children: 217-785-1455
Immunizations required to attend school:
Haemophilus influenza type B
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health