Beginning Friday, Kansas is requiring two new vaccinations for students at public and private schools.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced earlier this month that it would require students entering kindergarten and first grade have two doses of a hepatitis A vaccine.

Students entering seventh grade will need one dose of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine. And students starting their junior year of high school must have the meningococcal ACWY vaccine if they have not been vaccinated before their 16th birthday.

Students are still required to get vaccines for mumps, measles, rubella, whooping cough and chickenpox.

The head of the Kansas health department said the agency collected public input before changing the requirements. Meningitis and hepatitis A are serious but preventable diseases that spread easily from person to person, so it makes sense to require the vaccines.

Meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain, and it’s fatal for 10%-15% of the people who contract it. It can also cause hearing loss, brain damage and amputation. Hepatitis A can cause fever, vomiting and jaundice.

How do vaccines prevent disease? Simply put, they imitate an infection and help a person’s immune system produce antibodies to develop immunity.

Vaccines work, and they’re safe for healthy people, according to many reputable health entities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and major physician groups.

It’s important not only that we set requirements for vaccines, but also that we make them easily available and educate people about them. Without a majority of the population vaccinated, serious diseases spread.

So parents, as you’re planning for the beginning of the school year, gathering school supplies and new clothes, be sure to add this to the list. It will help keep our children healthy.

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