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For Release:
July 26, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

DHSS Advises Parents to Vaccinate Their Children: Three Additional Immunizations Required This Fall


††††††††††††††† TRENTON Ė New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. advises parents that, as the school year approaches, they should make sure their children meet this fallís new immunization requirements.

††††††††††††††† Immunization against chickenpox (varicella) is now required for entry to day care, kindergarten and first grade.Immunization against hepatitis B is now required for high school students (grades 9 through 12).Immunization against meningococcal meningitis is now required for all freshmen and new transfer students at four-year colleges living in on-campus dormitories.

††††††††††††††† Many young children and ninth-graders have already received required vaccines.The chickenpox vaccine has been recommended by leading national immunization authorities since 1995, and 79 percent of New Jerseyís children receive it by age two.Most ninth-graders were vaccinated against hepatitis B vaccine three years ago, when the hepatitis B immunization requirement for sixth-graders took effect.

††††††††††††††† Meningitis vaccination for college students has been encouraged, but was not required until a January 2004 law mandated changes in the higher education immunization regulations.

††††††††††††††† According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, college freshmen living in dormitories are about five times more likely than the general population to develop meningococcal meningitis, a type of bacterial meningitis that can be fatal in up to 15 percent of cases.Twenty-nine cases of meningococcal disease were reported in New Jersey in 2003.

††††††††††††††† Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterium that causes meningococcal meningitis, is spread through close personal contact, such as kissing or sharing beverages, utensils and other personal items.†† Immunization can prevent the majority of meningococcal meningitis cases in college students living in dormitories.

††††††††††††††† DHSS has developed meningococcal meningitis educational materials for the college population.Since 2002, four-year colleges have been required to educate every student about the disease and the benefits of immunization, and report their efforts annually to the DHSS.

††††††††††††††† Since 2001, New Jersey has required hepatitis B vaccination for†students entering kindergarten, first and sixth grades.Earlier this year, the Public Health Council extended protection to high school students by amending the regulations to require vaccination of students in grades 9 through 12.

††††††††††††††† The hepatitis B virus is spread through sexual contact or other contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.The majority of acute hepatitis B cases occur among older adolescents and young adults.About 30 percent of those infected show no early symptoms and can unknowingly pass the virus on to others.

††††††††††††††† There is no cure for hepatitis B, which can lead to serious liver disease such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.Adolescents who become chronically infected have a 15 percent chance of dying from liver disease.

††††††††††††††† The number of new hepatitis B infections nationwide has declined significantly since the 1980s as the vaccine has come into wider use.

††††††††††††††† Chickenpox vaccine protects children against chickenpox, a very contagious disease caused by the varicella virus.Complications of chickenpox can include bacterial infection of the open lesions.In some cases, more severe complications -- such as blood stream infections, brain swelling and pneumonia -- may occur.Before the introduction of the vaccine in 1995, there were about 100 deaths and 5,000 to 9,000 hospitalizations from chickenpox in the United States each year.

†††††††††† †††† Day care centers have been notified of the new requirements, and DHSS is developing a day care resource manual on vaccine preventable diseases.†† DHSS also worked this spring with the state Department of Education and the New Jersey College Health Association to provide schools and colleges electronic updates on the new immunization requirements.

††††††††††††††† Earlier this year, DHSS held a conference for college and university administrators on the new law requiring meningococcal meningitis immunization.Higher education officials also had an opportunity to provide input regarding the college immunization regulations that implement the law.

††††††††††††††† Anyone without a regular source of medical care who is seeking immunization services should contact the local health department or nearest community health center.To find the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) nearest you, call 1-800-328-3838.College students can also contact their university health service for more information on where to receive meningococcal meningitis immunization.

††††††††††††††† For more information on vaccine-preventable diseases, please visit the DHSS web site at:, or the federal CDC web site at

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