The Kentucky Department for Public Health found more than a third of students haven’t received the mandated Hepatitis A vaccinations, but health department officials say this regulation was put in place for a reason.
“It’s serious it’s a virus that some people can get over it, and their body will take care of it, and others don’t,” says Anita Owens, Green River District Health Department Director of Nursing.
Last year, the state added the hepatitis A vaccine as a requirement to go to school due to the statewide outbreak.
“Last year was a little difficult, we made it so that students could come to school as long as they had at least the first of the two vaccines because they have to be taken six months apart from each other,” says Owensboro Public Schools Public Information Officer, Jared Revlett.
The Green River District Health Department Nursing Director, Anita Owens, says by February, all students without state vaccination exemptions were supposed to have the first dose completed and their second shot scheduled. She tells 44News the new requirement was easier for elementary students catching up on vaccines, but harder on older students who thought they were in the clear.
“A lot of the hep A requirement was having the other students, like high schoolers, who have probably completed their immunization record when they were in sixth grade. That new requirement made them have to go back and get hep A,” says Owens.
This explains why results show seniors had the lowest compliance rate at 46% and kindergartners had the highest with 84%. Although, the lagging of compliance could be due to the older students dragging their feet on getting their second dose.
“But to be fully immunized for a long period of time, for your lifetime you need the second one,” says Owens.
Owensboro Public Schools say they can’t force students to get immunized with state exemptions in place.
“So it puts us in a tough spot in that regard. We won’t tell kids that they can’t come to school,” says Revlett. “But in the event that there was an outbreak, then, of course, we would have to take some steps to make sure that not only that student was protected but the other students were as well.”
According to health officials, not everyone has symptoms with hepatitis A. If symptoms do develop, it usually takes 2 to 6 weeks for them to appear and they can include a fever, fatigue, joint pain, jaundice, nausea, and abdominal pain.
This disease is preventable by getting vaccinated and developing good handwashing habits. Doctors say it’s important to always wash your hands before eating, making food, and after using the bathroom.