Department of Defense Education Activity public schools soon will require all students worldwide to get an annual flu vaccine as part of an updated vaccination policy, officials said.
"The annual seasonal influenza vaccine has been added to the list of required immunizations for students attending DoDEA schools," school officials said in an announcement included in a newsletter emailed this week to parents of children at Fort Campbell, Kentucky's high school.
"The requirement goes into effect starting this school year (Fall 2016) and will be a required vaccine for all students for every school year," they said.
The announcement, published in a Sept. 7 memo posted to Health.mil, was intended to be rolled out through a coordinated announcement at on-base schools. However, a organizational snafu within the activity resulted in an early release of details, officials said, creating confusion for parents in some locations.
"DoDEA is coordinating a change to immunization requirements for students that would include an annual seasonal influenza vaccine," said Cindy Gibson, a spokesperson for DoDEA. "The documents that facilitate this change were put into internal school communications channels ahead of schedule. DoDEA is working to get the information into the appropriate channels."
According to the policy, children must have the vaccine by Dec. 1.
Students in Europe-based defense schools have needed the vaccine since 2010 after a change from U.S. European Command required the shot for all employees. The vaccine has never before been required at stateside schools or those in the Pacific.
Officials said they made the change in an effort to reduce flu incidents in schools and on bases.
"The annual influenza vaccine is the best defense against influenza," Gibson said. "Improved health and safety reduces absenteeism; a reduction in absenteeism improves student academic achievement."
Families can get more information on how to get a vaccine for their children by talking to a school nurse or visiting their local military treatment facility. Officials with the Defense Health Agency said they do not anticipate any flu vaccine shortages at on-base clinics this year.
Parents can receive a vaccine waiver from the activity for religious or medical reasons. The waiver must be signed and submitted to the school at the beginning of the year or before the vaccine required-by date, Gibson said. In the case of an outbreak, children who are not vaccinated against the disease in question may be ordered to stay home, the waiver states.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.