|April 10, 2002||Chickenpox
Reported Cases by State and County, 1995 - 2000
CHICKENPOX VACCINATION REQUIREMENT SET FOR KINDERGARTEN
SPRINGFIELD, IL Illinois children entering kindergarten next school year and each child attending a licensed day care or a federally funded Head Start center after July 1 will be required to receive a vaccination against chickenpox or to provide proof having had the disease.
The Illinois General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) Wednesday voted no objection to a recommendation by Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, to mandate the chickenpox vaccination. The rules to enact the requirement are expected to be formally published next week in the Illinois Register.
"The decision to seek approval for this requirement was undertaken to protect the children of our state from a preventable disease," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Despite the widespread belief that chickenpox is a mild childhood disease, it in fact causes an average of five deaths a year in Illinois and hundreds of hospitalizations."
Wednesday's vote ended a two-year effort to consider whether Illinois should join 33 other states in instituting a chickenpox vaccination requirement. After the state's Immunization Advisory Committee and the state Board of Health issued contradictory recommendations in 2000, Dr. Lumpkin ordered Department staff to evaluate of scientific literature on the issue. In October 2001, Dr. Lumpkin announced that he would recommend adding chickenpox to a list of eight other immunization requirements for children entering the state's public and private schools. The proposed rules were published in late 2001, public comment taken and responded to, and JCAR acted Wednesday on the issue.
In addition to chickenpox, the other required school immunizations are for diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella and tetanus.
Chickenpox, or varicella, is generally mild; however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it kills more children and adolescents than all other diseases combined for which vaccination is routinely recommended. CDC estimates that about 100 persons die, mostly young children, and 9,300 hospitalizations occur each year from varicella-related complications.
In Illinois, 12,848 persons had varicella in 2000 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), down from 24,813 when the vaccine first was offered in 1995. There were 51 deaths from chickenpox in Illinois in the 1990s, including five in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and 416 hospitalizations for the disease in 2000.
Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread from person to person by direct contact or through the air. The disease, which is caused by varicella zoster virus, starts as an itchy rash that progresses to blisters that dry and become scabs in two to four days. In children, rash may be the first sign of illness, sometimes coupled with fever and general malaise. Chickenpox is contagious one to two days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. It develops within 10 to 21 days after contact with an infected person.
A child without the state-mandated vaccinations may not be allowed to attend school or a day care facility. School districts must demonstrate at least 90 percent compliance with the immunization requirements by no later than Oct. 15 each year or face a 10 percent loss of state aid. School districts have the option of enforcing the requirement anytime from the opening day of school until Oct. 15.
State law does provide exemptions from the immunization requirements for religious or medical reasons.
For an exemption on religious grounds, the parent or legal guardian must submit a written and signed statement to the local school authority detailing the religious belief that conflicts with immunizations. A medical exemption must be made by a licensed physician indicating the medical condition that precludes the child from receiving the required immunization(s).
The Department's federally funded Vaccines for Children program provides the chickenpox vaccine to Medicaid-eligible persons who have no insurance through physicians and local health departments. Persons who have insurance but do not have coverage for immunizations and who meet income eligibility requirements, can receive the vaccine at a federally qualified health center.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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