High schools require chickenpox vaccinations
August 17, 2016 | View PDF
All high school students in Washington state will have to have their chickenpox vaccinations or provide proof that they have had chickenpox in the past this year.
The new rules take effect for the 2016-17 school year and were put in place by the Washington State Department of Health.
"In 2007, a national group of medical experts recommended two doses of chickenpox vaccine for every student," said Rita Mell, the Vaccine Preventable Disease Program Supervisor at the Snohomish Health District.
Washington state officials responded to the recommendation in 2008 by requiring kindergarten students in the state have the vaccines, and since then have been moving up the grade levels.
Last year only students up to eighth-grade required vaccination, but this year all students will require chickenpox vaccinations.
"It's been in the works for a while," said Mell.
The state has implemented the new vaccination rules because "this disease is vaccine preventable," said Mell.
She said that before the vaccine about four million people per year had chickenpox and thousands would be hospitalized because of complications.
Those complications could be worse for especially young children, adults and young adults, she said.
Parents have multiple options to show compliance with the rule.
They can get the two vaccination shots, provide proof of immunization (tested by a blood draw), provide proof of medical history of chickenpox or provide an exemption with your medical provider's signature.
"Parents are free to choose to be exempt," said Mell.
Dale Leach, the Lakewood School District administrator in charge of the district's health services, said that they hope to be in full compliance by the beginning of school this September.
"We're trying to be proactive," he said.
At the Cougar Days events before school starts, district officials will be catching up with students who need to get their vaccinations, he said.
"We'll have forms and documentation available," he said.
Gloria Davis, a registered nurse and the district nurse for Arlington Public Schools, encouraged families to get on their vaccinations or other compliance measures now if they still need them.
"Like with all of our vaccination requirements, we give students until the beginning of October, so it's not like they can't come to school on the first day," said Davis.
"Ideally, everyone would be compliant from the beginning, but we know that's not always how it happens," she said.
She said the easiest way to get the vaccine is through your local healthcare provider or at local pharmacies.
If your family is facing problems, Davis said to communicate with the district as well. "The district is willing to work with families," she said.
Mell said vaccines should be easy to obtain.
"There are ample vaccines in the community and doctors are well aware of these new requirements," she said.
She recommends checking on the non-required vaccinations, like HPV or meningococcal, while getting chickenpox vaccinations as well.
"Any time a child goes into to get vaccinated they usually check on the immunization history, but it's nice for parents to sill ask and check if there's any gaps that need to filled still," she said.
More information about immunizations is available from the Snohomish Health District at snohd.org/Healthy-Living/Immunizations.