New chickenpox vaccine requirement for high-schoolers

Washington high-schoolers will be required to be immunized against chickenpox before entering school this fall.

In the 2016-17 school year, all public and private high school students will be required to get two doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, the state Department of Health announced recently.

“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 Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer, in a news release.

For most kids, though, the new requirement won’t change much.

The state already requires kids in kindergarten through eighth grade to have received two doses of the vaccine or have a health care provider verify the child has already had chickenpox.

The new rule just extends the requirement to high school students. High-schoolers are not required to be vaccinated if they already have had two doses of the vaccine.

And, of course, in Washington parents can submit a personal beliefs exemption if they don’t want their child to be immunized.

Still, health officials are encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated.

Chickenpox is a contagious disease that spreads quickly and causes an itchy rash, fever and, sometimes, serious illness. It’s transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing or by touching chickenpox blisters.

People who are infected with chickenpox are at risk for developing shingles – a painful skin rash – when they get older.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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