November 13, 1996
IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS FOR 1997-98 SCHOOL YEARSPRINGFIELD, IL -- New Illinois immunization regulations require all students entering the 5th grade after July 1, 1997, to have received three doses of hepatitis B vaccine. In addition, children 2 years of age or older enrolling after July 1 in pre-kindergarten programs operated by a school will need to show proof of hepatitis B immunization.
The first two doses of the vaccine are to be given four weeks apart, and the third shot must be received at least two months after the second.
"Since it takes a minimum of three months to complete the three-dose series of shots, parents of children who will be affected by the new requirements should begin planning the immunizations now," Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, said. "The vaccine will provide protection against a very serious disease, which has no cure."
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and is spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.
A person can be a carrier of the disease, but not know it and have no symptoms, and unwittingly spread it to others. State law requires that all pregnant women be tested for hepatitis B early in their pregnancies or at the time of delivery. Babies who get hepatitis B at birth may have the virus the rest of their lives, can spread the disease and may develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
The Illinois School Code was amended this year to include the hepatitis B immunization requirement. This new requirement applies to 5th graders in all schools and to children 2 years of age or older in all school or school-district operated programs such as nursery school, early childhood, pre-school or pre-kindergarten. Children enrolled in the federally funded Head Start program previously had been required by federal law to show proof of hepatitis B immunization.
Fifth graders were targeted because they already are required to have a physical examination before beginning 5th grade and the vaccine will provide them protection before the onset of risk-taking behaviors, such as sexual activity and drug use, that are most likely to begin during their teenage years.
For those who exhibit signs of hepatitis B, the symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach or joint pain, and extreme tiredness. Illinois has averaged 350 cases of hepatitis B per year over the past five years.
The three-dose immunization requirement brings Illinois in compliance with current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hepatitis B vaccine has been available since 1982 and has been included in the recommended Illinois childhood immunization schedule since 1991.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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