Maryland's children would be required to get more vaccines before attending school under a proposal being considered by state health officials.
But doctors and state health officials said most children are already getting the shots and that they are looking to regulate the process.
Under the proposed guidelines, pupils would be required to get a chicken pox booster before starting kindergarten. The chicken pox vaccine is now required to be given to babies.
Seventh-graders would be required to get the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. The whooping cough, or pertussis, booster would be an addition to current guidelines and was included because it can wane from when babies get the vaccine.
"This is an important addition because we know that adults and children can infect the most vulnerable people who get pertussis, and that is infants," said Dr. David Blythe, the state epidemiologist.
A vaccine for meningococcus, a bacterial disease that is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, also would be required. The state also wants to increase the requirement for the number of doses of the mumps and rubella vaccines.
The changes would align Maryland with standards recommended by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-six states have adopted the standards.
If adopted, the new guidelines would go into effect in 2014. The public can submit comments to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Regulation and Policy Coordination until May 18.
Dr. David Bundy, an assistant professor of pediatrics and childhood adolescence at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said most pediatricians already give their patients the additional vaccines. The proposed guidelines offer added safeguards for children, he said.
"The recommendations for these immunizations are not new nationally," Bundy said. "This is just updating the state's requirement to reflect the existing recommendations. It just makes us all look like we're in alignment with what we're doing, and it tightens the safety net at schools for kids who may be missing vaccines."
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