Students in the Dan River Region and across the state must have vaccines for certain diseases before attending classes next school year, according to new requirements that will take effect July 1.
The shots were previously optional, but are now required.
“They have now been mandated,” said Sherri Wright, school health facilitator for Danville Public Schools. “It has to be done.”
In order to align with the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the 2020 General Assembly passed House Bill 1090, which amends the minimum vaccination requirements for attendance at a public or private elementary, middle or secondary school, child care centers, nursery schools, family home day care or developmental center, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James F. Lane wrote in a letter to school division superintendents across the state in April.
The changes amend state law to require:
Two spaced doses of human papillomavirus vaccine for both males and females. The first dose must be administered before the child enters the seventh grade, but parents can opt out of that vaccine;
Two or three spaced doses of rotavirus vaccine, depending on the manufacturer, for children up to 8 months old;
Two spaced doses of hepatitis A vaccine, with first dose received at 12 months or older;
Two spaced doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (for meningitis), with the first dose given before entry into the seventh grade and the second before 12th grade.
State vaccination rules were last updated two years ago and more children have been developing these illnesses, Wright said.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, with symptoms including headache, fever and a stiff neck, according to the Mayo Clinic website. The condition can lead to amputations and death.
The meningitis vaccine is required before the student enters college, Wright pointed out.
“They’re going to have to get it done anyway,” she said. “Why don’t they do it now?”
School officials have sent letters to parents of all students in Danville Public Schools and to students’ doctors notifying them of the new requirements, “so they will have their students vaccinated and ready to start school on time,” Wright said.
Parents will have to provide proof to school officials of their children’s shots before they can attend school, Wright said.
However, rising first grade students and above will be grandfathered in and will not be required to have the hepatitis A vaccine, according to state officials.
Children entering the seventh grade must provide proof of their first dose of HPV vaccine (unless their parents opted out), one booster of the tetanus shot, diphtheria and pertussis shot, and their first dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
Karen Yeatts, school nurse coordinator with Pittsylvania County Schools, said letters and phone messages about the vaccine requirements have been sent to parents of children entering seventh and 12th grades in the county.
Yeatts urged parents to get their children set up for vaccines as soon as possible.
“Get the appointments now with your primary care provider or the health department,” she said.