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Tots must take shots before school

August 10, 2000

Tots must take shots before school



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Back-to-school supplies won't be the only items on the checklist for some children and college students this school year.

Under new state law, pre-schoolers are required to receive vaccinations for hepatitis B and chickenpox, while college students living on campus are urged to receive meningitis vaccinations.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began phasing in the changes to its pre-school vaccine regulations in 1996. The new laws become fully effective this fall. The meningitis regulation went into effect June 1.

In addition to the hepatitis B and chickenpox vaccines, 2-year-old pre-schoolers must have the already required vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae (Hib disease), measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

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If children are not vaccinated, health officials say diseases could spread and possibly cause death.

"If you are a parent, grandparent or foster parent, I urge you, for your child's sake, to make sure he or she receives all of the necessary shots to assure good health," said Georges C. Benjamin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Immunizations not only help keep children free of certain diseases but also protect other children and adults around them."

Robin Grumman, owner of Building Blocks Child Development Center Inc. in Hagerstown, said the vaccinations are a great idea.

Grumbin said Building Blocks hasn't had any problems with hepatitis but chickenpox has spread in the center in the past.

"I think it's marvelous," Grumbin said of the new law. "The diseases are something that would spread throughout the center."

Parents of children who can't afford the vaccines can contact the Vaccines For Children program at 1-800-232-2522. The organization provides free vaccines for children up to 18 years old who receive Medicaid benefits, don't have health insurance or are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

J.B. Hanson, deputy director of public relations for the DHMH, said meningitis vaccines are not mandatory for college students living on campus but are strongly encouraged.

"People in close living situations are at higher risk of contracting meningitis, especially if they are a carrier," Hanson said. "They are encouraged to be vaccinated for meningitis."

Students choosing not to be vaccinated will be required to sign a waiver.

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