New vaccine requirement for Wash. high school students starting this fall

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Washington State Department of Health announced a new requirement for all public and private high school students starting in the fall of 2016.

Students will be required to have two doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine before starting the 2016-17 school year.

Health officials are encouraging parents to get their teens vaccinated sooner than later, to avoid a last minute rush before the start of school.

“Chickenpox is a preventable disease that can be particularly dangerous for kids with weakened immune systems. If all students are up-to-date with two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, they can start the school year protected,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy.

Students are not required to get the vaccinations if they already had two doses of the vaccine, have had chickenpox in the past, or have had a blood test showing they are immune.

If a student needs two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, they need to wait one month between each dose.

Chickenpox is transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing or by touching chickenpox blisters.

Doctors say it is a very contagious disease that spreads quickly and causes an itchy rash, fever, and sometimes serious illness. People infected with chickenpox are at risk for developing shingles, a painful skin rash, later in life.

Information and frequently asked questions about the new chickenpox vaccine requirements are available on DOH’s website. Parents can also learn more about all vaccine requirements for the 2016-17 school year.

Parents can receive no-cost vaccines for all kids up to 19-years-old through health care providers participating in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program. Participating providers may charge for the office visit and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask for it to be waived.