State aims to boost shots for children

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

FAIRBANKS -- Children in Alaska child-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 policy-makers said it will bring the state more in line with nationwide immunization requirements.

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

State regulations require children in child-care centers 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 mean five new shots for all children, Wood said. Most Alaskans already receive the mumps vaccine in the common MMR shot, named for measles, mumps and rubella.

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