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Missouri will be joining 39 other states by requiring children who attend kindergarten beginning with the 2005-06 school year to be vaccinated against chickenpox (varicella).
"Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that is usually mild, but it can result in severe complications and even death," according to Ron Cates, interim director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
Children will be required to have the vaccine or reliable proof that they have had the disease in order to attend school. They can obtain the vaccine from their private health care provider or from their local health department. DHSSs rule requiring the varicella vaccination for school attendance in the 2005-06 school year was issued in April 2004 to give ample time for families, physicians and schools to implement the vaccination requirement.
A state requirement for varicella vaccination has been in place since 2001 for children who attend child care facilities and are 16-69 months old.
Complications from chickenpox include severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia and brain damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that before the vaccine was widely used in the United States, about 12,000 people a year were hospitalized for chickenpox and about 100 people died.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all children receive the vaccine, as well as other susceptible persons over 13 years of age. Susceptible persons are those who have never had the disease or the vaccine.
Varicella vaccine is recommended for susceptible persons in the following high-risk groups:
-- persons who live or work in environments where transmission of chickenpox is likely (e.g., teachers of young children, day care employees, and residents and staff members in institutional settings);
-- persons who live and work in environments where transmission can occur (e.g., college students, inmates and staff members of correctional institutions, and military personnel);
-- women of childbearing age who are not pregnant;
-- adolescents and adults living in households with children; and
-- international travelers.
Source: Missouri Department of Health