N.H. summer camps are sticklers for vaccinations

Monitor staff
Published: 6/2/2019 3:35:04 PM

Summer camp is around the corner for thousands of children in New Hampshire and with it comes the need for vaccinations, which are just as strict as they are during the school year.

“It’s the exact same requirement as immunizations for school-age and day care,” said Chip Mackey, who heads the N.H. Youth Recreation Camp Licensing Program at the Department of Environmental Services. “I think we have the precautions in place, so we didn’t need to add anything new.”

The issue of vaccinations has gained public attention recently due to the outbreak of measles in several parts of the country. Outbreaks have mostly occurred in communities with high rates of people who avoid immunization because they reject the scientific consensus and decide that the shots are dangerous or unnecessary.

New Hampshire has not had a recent case of measles contracted in the state, although it had a scare in Keene earlier this month when a child had a reaction to the MMR vaccine, which covers measles, mumps and rubella.

The state’s youth camp licensing program has included information online about measles because of the outbreaks, and officials will be discussing the issue with camps as they start to open after school closes in the next few weeks.

Because most children in summer camps attend school or day care, Mackey said, the immunization requirement is usually no problem. New Hampshire allows vaccination exceptions based on medical or religious reasons, but not personal preference, and has high rates of vaccination for kindergartners.

Difficulties may come up with children who are home-schooled and don’t know the requirements, or children from other states.

“About the only question we get is that a lot of children come from other states that might have different requirements, such as they only have two doses at this age versus three that we require,” said Mackey.

In that case, he said, children would have to get the extra shots to meet New Hampshire requirements.

Youth recreation camps are defined as any organization that hosts 10 or more children for 10 or more days a year. Mackey said about 160 camps are registered with the state, ranging from traditional New England lakeside boarding camps to day programs in cities.

That number is roughly constant from year to year, Mackey said, although the percentage of day camps compared to residential camps may be increasing.

The state’s school immunization requirements cover diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough, usually given in one shot known as DTP; polio; hepatitis B; chicken pox; and the MMR vaccine. Details are online at /dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/immunization.

Mackey said the Department of Environmental Services hires three inspectors every year to perform unannounced visits while camps are operating, concentrating on issues such as child safety, health staffing and food preparation.

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