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State proposes boosting number of immunizations for children

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Children in day Alaska care centers and schools would be required to have as many as five more immunizations under regulations proposed by the state.

The new requirement would mean a few more shots for some Alaska children, but policymakers said it will bring the state more in line with current immunization requirements across the country.

''Alaska immunization requirements have remained the same since the mid-1970s,'' said Laurel Wood, state immunization program manager.

State regulations currently require children in child care and schools to be immunized against measles, rubella, tetanus, polio, whooping cough and diphtheria.

The new regulations would add hepatitis ''A'' and ''B'' to that list, as well as mumps. The haemophilus influenza type b -- commonly known as Hib -- and the chicken pox vaccines would be required for children attending child care facilities.

The changes, if adopted, would take effect in July of 2001.

''Alaska is out of the ordinary in that most states do have requirements for more of the vaccines than we do here,'' said Jean Becker, Fairbanks regional public health nurse manager.

''I'm sure we will have concerns expressed about it because most parents don't like their children to come in and have shots,'' Becker told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

But the hazards associated with getting any of these diseases far outweigh any risk or discomfort, she said.

Hepatitis A and B are liver diseases. Hib is a bacterial illness that usually strikes children under age 5 and is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in young children, Becker said.

Mumps is a viral disease characterized by fever and swelling or tenderness of the salivary glands.

''Other than polio, we are a long way from eradicating many of these diseases,'' Becker said.

The regulation changes, if adopted, would not necessarily mean five new shots for all children, the state's Wood said.

''It is really important to note that many people in Alaska have been getting these vaccines, because they have been medically recommended for years.''

Most Alaskans already receive the mumps vaccine in the common MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella, shot.

The newest on the list is chicken pox vaccine, which only has been available for a few years, Wood said.

While some people might question needing a vaccine for an illness many see as a part of growing up, 100 people die in the U.S. each year of complications from chicken pox, Wood said.

Play N' Learn Inc. deputy director Alicia Berka supports the state's move to add the vaccines.

Illnesses are easily spread in a group care setting, especially when some diseases, like chicken pox, are contagious before symptoms appear, she said.

Many children can be infected even though their playmates are excluded from care at the first sign of chicken pox, Berka said.

''It is never usually a whole classroom, but it can be a significant portion.''

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On the Net: Proposed immunization changes:

www.epi.hss.state.ak.us.



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