NASHVILLE - For the first time in a decade, Tennessee has adopted new childhood immunization requirements to better protect children from serious diseases, especially those that can spread easily in a school or pre-school setting.
The new 2010 requirements apply to those who attend child care, pre-school and school, and changes coming in 2011 affect new Tennessee college students. The state has also introduced a new official Tennessee Certificate of Immunization required for children starting pre-school, Kindergarten and seventh grade this fall.
"Vaccinations have all but eliminated the threat of diseases like mumps and measles. Unfortunately, we still see Tennessee children suffer and die unnecessarily when they are not properly immunized," said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. "These new requirements assure that children have the best protection from serious illnesses that are easily passed from person to person in schools and child care centers."
Parents and guardians planning to pre-register their children for school this spring will need to submit the new Certificate of Immunization by the time class starts in the fall. Because all new Kindergarten students and seventh graders will need the new certificate, public schools are allowing a one-time grace period of October 1 to submit the form, according to the state Department of Education. Check with your school for more information.
"The required vaccines are already recommended for all children by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, so most young children have already received them," said Kelly Moore, MD, medical director of the state immunization program. "Parents should talk with their child's health care provider to be sure they have had everything they need. Unlike toddlers, who have frequent health exams, many pre-teens and teens are overdue for their annual health check-up, and are missing some of these important vaccines."
A complete list of the new immunization requirements as well as information for parents and health care providers is available on the Tennessee Department of Health Web site at http://health.state.tn.us/CEDS/required.htm. Examples of changes that will go into effect are as follows:
· Children enrolling in child care, pre-school or pre-Kindergarten must now show documentation of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Pneumococcal vaccine.
· All children entering the seventh grade this fall must submit proof of a booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine; and confirm either chickenpox immunity through the disease or receipt of two doses of the varicella vaccine.
· In July 2011, new full-time enrollees to Tennessee colleges who were born after 1979 will need to provide proof of chickenpox immunity through either the disease or two doses of the varicella vaccine.
Children and teens younger than age 19 who have TennCare as well as those who do not have health insurance can receive free vaccines through the federal Vaccines for Children Program in participating private medical offices and health departments. Ask your child's health care provider if they participate in VFC. If a child has insurance that does not pay for vaccines or if parents are unable to afford them, local health departments can provide the vaccine. Health departments and VFC providers give the vaccine for a small fee that can be adjusted based on your income.
Local health departments will be able to provide the new certificates beginning April 1; private providers will be able to obtain the new certificate beginning in April. Parents should talk to their child's health care provider about plans for issuing the new certificates. Health care providers can go to https://twis.tn.us for more information.
For general information about vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines. For questions about school policies or health examinations, contact your local school system. For more information on the new requirements, call your county health department or go to the Web at http://health.state.tn.us/CEDS/required.htm.