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Get your shots: New immunization rules coming for new school year

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Students going back to school will need to be up to date on new immunization requirements by Sept. 1, and parents are being urged to act now to make sure their kids are properly immunized before school starts, WCCO reports.

The Minnesota Department of Health recently made some changes to the immunization rules, which affect infants as well as school-age children.

The new rules now mandate certain immunizations for children participating in early childhood education programs. They were not covered under the previous rules.

Here's a quick summary of the new required immunizations:

-- Hepatitis B - For all children over 2 months old in child care or an early childhood program. Hepatitis B was already required for children in school.

-- Hepatitis A - For all children over 24 months old in child care or an early childhood program.

-- Tdap - For all students entering seventh grade. Students in eighth through 12th grade must show documentation if the school requests it. This adds protection against pertussies (whooping cough) and replaces the Td immunization requirement.

-- Meningitis (meningococcal) - For all students entering seventh grade. Students entering eighth through 12th grade must show documentation if the school requests it.

There are also a few changes to the current list of immunizations. All the details are available on the Health Department's website. You can also download a chart which lays out exactly what vaccines you child needs at what age.

Parents who do not wish to have their children immunized can still opt out by completing an exemption form. But public health officials are discouraging parents from skipping the immunizations.

Some parents are doing so because they fear that certain vaccines, mainly the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, may be linked to autism in young children. Researchers have debunked that link, but it persists among certain populations, including the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota.

A measles outbreak in the state three years ago began with an unvaccinated child who contracted measles while overseas, and then spread the disease to others when he returned.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a record number of measles cases have broken out so far this year.

Dr. Gigi Chawla, a health expert, told WCCO more than 500 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Minnesota so far this year, illustrating the need for seventh-graders to get a a booster shot to protect against it.

Overall, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that vaccinations that were given to children in the last 20 years will prevent 732,000 deaths and save $295 billion in costs, according to WCCO.

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