Amid national hepatitis A outbreaks, Kansas requires vaccine for schoolkids

Posted: Updated:
TOPEKA, Kan. (KCUR) -

Kansas schools will require two new vaccines come August, including one against a virus that’s hospitalized 13,000 people and killed 200 across the country since 2016.

The new rules, which apply to public and private schools, will be phased in over the next several years. But come August, schools will check that:

  • Kindergartners and first-graders have gotten hepatitis A vaccine.
  • Seventh-graders have had their first dose of a MenACWY, a vaccine against four types of meningococcal bacteria.
  • 11th-graders get a dose of MenACWY, too (even students who received a first dose when they were younger will need a booster dose).

Kansas allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons, but not philosophical reasons.

Nationally, 25 states have seen more than 20,000 cases of hepatitis A in widespread outbreaks since 2016

The liver infection often spreads through contamination in water, raw or undercooked foods or through sex.

Kansas hasn’t seen any recent cases, though its neighbors have. More than 300 in Missouri and nearly 100 in Colorado have gotten sick.

Read about the known side effects of specific vaccines here. No evidence links vaccines to autism, a myth that got its start with a debunked academic article.  Read Autism Speaks’ FAQ page on what does and doesn’t cause autism here.

Most people shake off hepatitis A in a matter of weeks, the federal Centers for Disease Control say. But others fight the illness for months, suffering from things like diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, fever, jaundice and stomach pain.

Last month, the federal panel of health experts that sets vaccine guidelines recommended children and teens who missed the hepatitis A shots as toddlers get them now. In Kansas, federal data suggest more than 85% of children receive it as toddlers, in part because it was already required for day care.

Fewer Kansans get the MenACWY vaccine. Meningococcal bacteria cause, among other things, meningitis.

Outbreaks are rare but nearly a third of patients die, lose limbs or sustain long-term brain damage.

People living in close quarters, such as college dorms, are at higher risk of contracting meningococcal disease.

Original story published by Kansas News Service

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @Celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.