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New Vaccine Requirement for Some Illinois School Kids

Illinois sixth and 12th grade students are required to receive a vaccination to protect against meningitis. Credit: El Alvi/Flickr
Illinois sixth and 12th grade students are required to receive a vaccination to protect against meningitis. Credit: El Alvi/Flickr
August 3, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As Illinois families prepare to send their children back to class, state officials say immunizations should be on the back-to-school checklist.

For school entrance, students must show proof of vaccinations against several diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, mumps and measles.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says this fall the state is introducing a new requirement of vaccination against meningococcal disease.

"This is the bacteria that causes meningitis,” he explains. “Sixth graders must show proof of having one dose and 12th graders most show proof of having received at least two doses."

Illinois families that object to vaccinations on religious grounds are not legally required to obtain the immunizations, but the parent must present a signed statement to the school district detailing the grounds for objection.

Medical exemptions are also allowed and require a doctor's note explaining why one or more of the required immunizing agents is medically conflicting.

Earlier this year, there was an outbreak of measles in Illinois, and a total of 15 children were affected. Shah says the incident underscores the need for anyone who can be vaccinated to receive immunizations to prevent infection.

"Vaccines when properly used create this invisible force field, which protects not only the child who's been vaccinated but the entire community of children – even those children who for whatever reason, medical or otherwise, may not be able to be vaccinated," he stresses.

According to the State Board of Education, Illinois had a 97 percent compliance rate for school vaccinations in 2013.

The federal government and researchers acknowledge that no vaccine is 100 percent safe or effective and no public health official or vaccine provider can determine who will be protected or harmed by a vaccine. The National Vaccine Information Center has more information on each states' policies and where parents can find more research on the benefits and risk of various vaccines.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL