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Immunizations in question?

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See how Henry County measured up

By Tammy Shaw

 Henry County is a close-knit community where kids play, go to school, ride buses and attend church together.

But the national increase in non-immunized students in schools, public and private, has led to measles and chickenpox outbreaks throughout the country, according to community health agencies.

The higher the non-vaccination rate, the more likely adverse consequences may be felt by vulnerable groups in the community, say health officials.

Requirements

According to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the commonwealth requires every student in public and private schools to turn in an immunization certificate at school within two weeks of entering school.

However, the Kentucky Legislature revised 704 KAR 4:020, now 702 KAR 1:160, in June 2017 to add religious exemptions in addition to existing medical exemptions.

The School Immunization Program, including Kentucky’s Immunization Registry, is administered by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (KCHFS) Immunization Program.

KDE requires a Commonwealth of Kentucky Immunization Certificate, whether standard, no exceptions; provisional, a grace period of sorts to get in more than one in a series of vaccinations; or medical or religious exemptions.

KCHFS data also lists expired, a certificate on file but not current; or missing, no exemptions on file.

Concerns and exemptions

Even though agencies have released statistics about the negative affects of not getting the shots, concerns about ingredients in measles and chickenpox vaccines have led to decreased immunity and increased vulnerability to disease in unvaccinated students, babies not yet old enough to receive vaccines, pregnant women, the elderly and immunosuppressed patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC

In Kentucky, a parent may choose a medical or religious exemption, according to KDE and pick which vaccines they do and do not want their children to receive. But each state varies; some states allow medical and/or religious exemptions, while others thers allow no exemptions.

However, Henry County schools’ (both Henry County Public Schools and Eminence Independent Schools) religious and medical exemptions are above the immunity threshold, with a nearly 97 percent immunization rate.

Henry Certificate Breakdown 2018

New Castle Elementary, 63 first graders enrolled: one expired, no missing, provisional, medical or religious exemptions.

Campbellsburg Elementary, 39 first graders enrolled: no missing, expired, medical or religious exemptions.

Eastern Elementary, 28 first graders enrolled: one expired and one religious exemption.

Henry County Middle School, sixth grade, 148 enrolled: one expired, no missing or provisional, and one religious exemption.

Eminence Elementary had 61 first graders enrolled: no missing, provisional or religious exemptions.

Eminence Middle School, 70 sixth graders enrolled: two religious exemptions and two expired.

Potential unvaccinated rate is 3.2 percent, below the 90 to 95 percent needed for community immunity.

Several attempts to reach KCHFS for comment were not successful.

Area immunity

Americans live in a society where everyone comes into contact with others — at the grocery store, shopping, church, school and community activities.

According to the National Vaccine Office of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, community immunity, often called herd immunity, is the percent of the total population that needs to be vaccinated to reduce risk of disease outbreaks.

Highly infectious diseases like measles and chickenpox can barrel through communities, felling young and old alike. If enough people get sick, there can be an outbreak. But if enough of the population is vaccinated, germs cannot travel as quickly or easily between people, according to government health agencies.

The total of missing, expired and provisional certificates, though, means the state doesn’t really know the true number of children have been vaccinated, partially vaccinate or unvaccinated.

Henry County’s potential student vaccination rate is 96.8 percent of 278 enrolled first and sixth graders, enough to provide the community with enough protection against outbreaks even if all compromised certificates represent unvaccinated students, according to local health agencies.

Oldham’s potential unvaccinated rate is 3.8 percent out of 1,803 students.

Shelby County’s true vaccinates rate is unknown. On paper, 24 percent are listed as expired, missing, provisional or objection certificates out of 1,065 enrolled first and sixth graders, which may or may not be equivalent to unvaccinated. Over 100 missing certificates and 91 expired certificates makes determining a vaccination rate problematic. As it stands, a 76 percent vaccinated rate would place Shelby well below 90 percent community immunity, if all missing and expired certificates represent unvaccinated children.

Overall in Kentucky, the CDC estimated that 91.7 percent of students going into first grade received the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and 90.6 percent received the chickenpox immunization for the 2017-18 school year, close to the immunity threshold set by CDC.

Trends

Over 90 percent of U.S. children received the polio vaccine and 90.9 percent received two doses of the MMR, according to a recent National Institutes of Health, NIH, report.

One way parents inoculate children without vaccinations are to expose them to other children with the disease. However, CDC specifically discourages this practice, as children can contract lasting disabilities or even die from exposure.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin purposely exposed all nine of his unvaccinated children to a neighbor who contracted the highly infectious disease to give them all chickenpox at the same time to immunize his children in this manner instead of by vaccine, according to a Courier Journal report.

“Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to severe complications and death, even in healthy children,” the CDC states on its website.

Measles outbreaks have swept through communities in New York, California, Pennsylvania and Washington states.

Outbreaks

From Jan. 1 to June 6 this year, 1,022 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 28 states, including Kentucky, compared with 372 last year and 120 in 2017. More than 40 new  

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Henry County is a close-knit community where kids play, go to school, ride buses and attend church together.

But the national increase in non-immunized students in schools, public and private, has led to measles and chickenpox outbreaks throughout the country, according to community health agencies.

The higher the non-vaccination rate, the more likely adverse consequences may be felt by vulnerable groups in the community, say health officials.

 

Requirements

 

According to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the commonwealth requires every student in public and private schools to turn in an immunization certificate at school within two weeks of entering school.

However, the Kentucky Legislature revised 704 KAR 4:020, now 702 KAR 1:160, in June 2017 to add religious exemptions in addition to existing medical exemptions.

The School Immunization Program, including Kentucky’s Immunization Registry, is administered by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (KCHFS) Immunization Program. 

KDE requires a Commonwealth of Kentucky Immunization Certificate, whether standard, no exceptions; provisional, a grace period of sorts to get in more than one in a series of vaccinations; or medical or religious exemptions.

KCHFS data also lists expired, a certificate on file but not current; or missing, no exemptions on file.