Fayette County

Hepatitis A vaccine, meningitis booster required for Kentucky kids

New immunization regulations in Kentucky require two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine and a booster to the meningitis vaccine.

These new regulations apply to children attending child daycare centers, certified family childcare homes, preschool programs, and public and private primary and secondary schools, and require students to have current immunization certificates on file, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

Additionally, children who are home-schooled but participate in “any public or private school activities (classroom, extra curriculum activity, or sport)” must also abide by the new regulations, in order to “promote the public health interest for all children and adults involved,” according to the health department. The new regulations went into effect June 21, along with an updated immunization schedule to the state immunization regulation.

Jill Keys, clinical services officer and registered nurse with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said the revisions require any child over a year old going into daycare or school to receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine and to receive a booster to the meningitis vaccine at age 16.

“These have been recommended for several years by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Keys said. “The state has just updated its requirements to match those recommendations.”

Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Hiram C. Polk Jr. said the new requirements were made to help “encourage our families and children to be protected from these diseases.

“We are starting to see a rise in cases of measles, mumps, chicken pox and other diseases that had been previously eliminated within our communities,” Polk said in a news release.

The regulation allows parents and guardians to seek exemption from immunizations for religious reasons. Doug Hogan, spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said exemption forms are available through the Department of Public Health and Department of Education websites, eliminating the step of going to a doctor’s office to receive the exemption form. Keys said the form is now just a signed statement from the parents, seeking religious exemption from vaccines.

“The parent/guardian can download and print a copy of the form, complete it, have it notarized and take it to the child’s daycare or school,” Hogan said in an email. “In the past, the form was obtained at a medical provider’s office or at a local health department.”

Hogan said religious exemptions are relatively uncommon in Kentucky.

“During the last school immunization survey conducted by the Department for Public Health, less than 2 percent of children attending all public and private schools had an exemption from immunizations document,” he said.

Dr. Elizabeth Hawes, a pediatrician at Commonwealth Pediatrics in Lexington, said she has only had one patient in 17 years of practicing medicine seek a religious exemption. She said seeking a medical exemption is more common for children who cannot receive a live vaccine due to illness.

Keys said the immunization certificate and religious exemption certificates have been updated to reflect the recent changes. The updated immunization form and religious exemption form are available on the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services website.

Hawes said that most children will have already had the hepatitis A vaccine and meningitis booster, because of recommendations from the Center for Disease Control. Hawes said the CDC has been recommending the hepatitis A vaccine and meningitis booster for “several years.”

“Our practice and most pediatricians in town, I think, follow the CDC recommendations,” Hawes said. “Most people will have had them.”

Hawes said in order to be sure that their child is up to date on their immunizations, parents should check with their child’s doctor.

Monica Kast: 859-231-1320, @monicakastwku