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Illinois Changes Vaccination Requirements for Schools

National Cancer Institute
Wikimedia Commons

As preventable diseases make a comeback, Illinois is increasing immunization requirements for schools.

Beginning this fall, children entering school at any grade level will need to receive two doses, instead of the formerly required one, of the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella.

Also those entering kindergarten, sixth or ninth grade are required to get two doses of Varicella, the chicken pox vaccine.

Such diseases can be brought into the country by travelers, putting unvaccinated children at risk.

Constance Roberts, with the Hancock County Health Department, said the new rules are to help curb a recent rise in these types of preventable diseases.

“We’re seeing more outbreaks than we have been seeing," Roberts said. "Being in school they’re in close contact which is where diseases spread more easily so you know getting your children vaccinated is going to protect them the best way possible.”

There haven’t been any recent cases of measles or mumps in Hancock County. But neighboring McDonough County reported two cases of measles within the last few months.

In a statement, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck stressed the importance of vaccinations. 

“While some vaccine-preventable diseases are relatively rare in the U.S., they are only a plane ride away," Hasbrouck said. "Such diseases can be brought into the country by travelers, putting unvaccinated children at risk."

Parents will still be able to opt out of having their children vaccinated by completing a refusal form. Statistics from the 2012-2013 school year show fewer than 1% of children abstained from vaccinations.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.