New requirements announced for preschoolers and adolescents

By Melanie Posey

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - On Thursday, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced new requirements for preschoolers and adolescents.

It has always been recommended that preschoolers get the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV).  This protects against ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis.  Now, the state requires it for all children attending child care or home daycare centers.

Also, a tetanus-diphtheria immunization has always been required.  But now the state has added a dose warding against Pertussis, or whooping cough to the vaccine.  As a result, all kids who are 11 or older entering the sixth grade must have this new vaccine, instead of waiting until they're 14 to get it.  Doctors say this makes sure kids whose immunity may be wearing off are covered.  

"And the biggest concern is for the younger babies for whom Pertussis is a much more severe disease," says Dr. Jacqueline W. Stewart, a pediatrician with Magnolia Pediatrics.  She says it's not uncommon for parents to voice concerns about immunizations, but she says it's important that they weigh the benefits against the risks. "When we look at the benefits of them and realize we are able to protect them from something that could kill them or cripple them or maim them physically or mentally, the benefits far outweigh the risks."  

The changes for preschool children take place immediately. The new immunization requirements for 11-year-olds will begin with upcoming 2010-2011 school year.

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