What new vaccine requirement? Here's what you need to know
Starting this fall, Washington students entering grades 9th–12th will be required to have two doses of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced the new vaccine requirement earlier this year.
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever. Until this year, two doses of the vaccine were required for grades kindergarten through 8th, but not 9th–12th.
A one-month wait is required between the two doses, so it’s a good idea to get the first dose now before the back-to-school rush, says Cindy Smith, BSN, RN, a public health nurse consultant with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
“Avoid the rush,” says Smith, who is also co-chair of the Pierce County Immunization Coalition. “Expect long lines and delays at back-to-school time.”
Your child does not need the varicella vaccine if she or he:
- Already had two doses of the vaccine
- Has a documented history of chickenpox
- Has blood test results showing immunity
What if you don’t have documentation or can’t remember if your child has received the vaccine?
Start with your primary care doctor, suggests Smith. It’s usually easier to vaccinate/revaccinate than to get blood work done.
Smith also recommends taking the opportunity to find out what other vaccinations or booster shots you or your child needs.
Why two doses?
Chickenpox may be mild or moderate for many, but it can also lead to life-threatening complications for some, even if they were healthy before getting sick.
A second dose helps give long-lasting protection against the disease, according to the DOH. Children who are vaccinated but become infected will be sick for a shorter amount of time, and with a milder case than if they had not been vaccinated.
The state has been working to meet national requirements established in 2007 that all children receive two doses of the varicella vaccine. In 2014, the Washington State Board of Health made a decision to apply the requirement to kindergarten through 12th grade by the 2016–17 school year to be in compliance with federal recommendations.
Where can I get my child vaccinated?
MultiCare offers free and low-cost immunizations at the following locations:
MultiCare Immunization Clinic at South Hill Mall
3500 S. Meridian, Puyallup
(in the MultiCare Health Kiosk next to Old Country Buffet)
The clinic offers free and low-cost immunizations to children and adults. No appointments are necessary. The kiosk is open 5 days a week to provide convenient access to immunization services:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 10:30am–5pm
Every second Saturday, 11:30am–5pm
Every other Saturday, 11:30am–5pm
The MultiCare Mary Bridge Mobile Immunization Clinic provides free immunizations to all children from birth through 18 years of age. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department maintains a schedule of where the Mobile Immunization Clinic will be each month.
For more information about the Mobile Immunization Clinic, call 253-403-1767 or 800-552-1419.