What are the new vaccine requirements for school-aged children in Virginia?

Health

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — School-aged children have four new vaccine requirements in the state of Virginia, which went into effect on July 1.

During the 2020 General Assembly session, legislators voted to amend the Code of Virginia to require the Hepatitis A, Meningitis, HPV-Gardasil and Rotavirus vaccines.

Moving forward, documentary proof must be provided of adequate age-appropriate immunization with the prescribed number of doses for attendance at a public or private elementary, middle or secondary school, child care center, nursery school, family day care home or developmental center.

“Really, what they’re doing is bringing our vaccine requirements for attending daycare, public and private schools in Virginia, those sorts of institutions, in line with the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC’s existing vaccine recommendations,” Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Epidemiologist Marshall Vogt said. “What was added to Virginia’s requirements are vaccines that have been routinely recommended for a number of years now.”

Effective July 1, a minimum of two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine are required. According to VDH, the first dose should be administered at age 12 months or older.

A minimum of two doses of the Meningococcal Conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine are now also required. VDH advises that the first dose be administered prior to entering 7th grade, and the final dose should be administered prior to entering 12th grade.

The Rotavirus vaccine requirement went into effect July 1, but it is only required for children younger than 8 months of age. The requirement details two or three doses.

Previously required by the Code of Virginia was the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for females. But on July 1, the requirement was expanded effectively to include males.

“The reasoning for making this a required vaccine is it protects against infection with a number of strains of Human Papillomavirus, and some of those strains can lead to cancer later in life,” Vogt said.

For each of these vaccines, parents and guardians may opt-out for their children for medical or religious reasons. For the HPV vaccine, opt-out requirements differ.

“The HPV vaccine is a little unique in that requirement doesn’t require either a medical or a religious exemption from the requirement,” Vogt said. “Parents can review educational material on the HPV vaccine and just choose not to have their child immunized.”

In general, to opt-out of a required vaccine, Vogt said that parents and guardians will need a note from their child’s doctor, detailing a medical exemption, or a notarized document for a religious exemption.

“These vaccines are very safe,” Vogt said. “They’ve been on this immunization schedule, this routine, recommended immunization schedule for a number of years now, and so, really, these changes in requirements are to get Virginia’s requirements kind of in sync with the CDC’s requirements.”

For those children who are old enough to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is not required for school attendance in Virginia, Vogt said getting these routine vaccines will not interfere

“We know, in the future, we’re probably going to expand the age ranges that are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Vogt said. “There’s no reason that someone couldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine and their routine childhood immunizations, as well, that they need to go back to school.”

Vogt said that the vaccines function by injecting a small piece of the dead virus, a component of the virus or weakened bacteria into the body, along with other ingredients to aid in immune response.

“None of the vaccines cause the illness that we’re preventing, but the idea is that they show a little bit of that illness-causing organism to your body’s immune system, and then your body’s immune system is going to make antibodies,” Vogt said. “Some of those antibodies will circulate for a period of time. But you’ll also have antibodies that remain kind of in a memory state so that if you’re ever really exposed to any of these organisms, your immune system will actively prevent those from actually making you ill.”

For additional information about required vaccines for school-aged children in Virginia and appropriate dosing, click here. Vogt said that a child’s school and physician also can be helpful resources.

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