Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 10, 2013

Indiana aims at outbreaks


The issue: New rules requiring two chickenpox vaccinations for every child in every grade.

Our view: Guidelines could help prevent outbreaks like those at Taylor and Western schools last year.

More than 200 Western School Corp. students were vaccinated for chickenpox after an outbreak last March.

The virus was confirmed to have infected five fifth-graders, the Howard County Health Department reported. It acted quickly to prevent the infection’s spread and held a free vaccination clinic at Western Primary School.

Two hundred ninety Western students and staff were found in need of a booster shot. County health officials couldn’t accommodate such a large number. They had just 103 doses in stock at the time.

So state health officials solicited nearly 200 doses from other counties.

Not everyone participated in the clinic. As a result, 35 students missed the next three weeks of school because their parents declined immunization for their children.

Last year’s chickenpox outbreak at Western – and another three months earlier at Taylor Community School Corp. – spotlights the importance of immunizations to public health. And new vaccination guidelines announced this week by the state health department could help prevent another outbreak in Howard County.

The new rules require two chickenpox vaccinations for every child in every grade, unless the student can prove he or she contracted the disease in the past.

Previously, some grade levels were required to have only one vaccination for the illness. And at Western, all five of the fifth-graders infected with chickenpox last March had received the inoculation but weren’t scheduled for a booster until the following year.

If you have had chickenpox once, there’s a chance you could have it again. In one study reported by the United Kingdom’s National Health System, about 1 in 8 people suffering chickenpox reported they had had it once before.

Fortunately, the Howard County Health Department makes it easy for families to get vaccinations. It hosts weekly children’s immunization clinics, and free or low-cost vaccinations are available to all resident families without immunization coverage or health insurance.

County health officials administered 12,000 vaccinations to children in 2010. Despite dozens of immunization clinics and warnings from school officials of possible expulsion for not providing proof of immunization, as many as 1,000 students still hadn’t received inoculations before October of that year – more than two months into the fall semester.

For the health of your child and the safety of their classmates and community, don’t ignore their immunizations.