As we get closer to back-to-school time, parents are naturally thinking about what school supplies their children need for the upcoming year.
I think this period of time also offers the opportunity to remind parents that several states, including Ohio, have mandates going into effect this 2016-17 school year that require incoming seventh and twelfth graders receive the meningococcal vaccine before the first day of school.
The meningococcal vaccine protects against meningococcal disease, which is a group of illnesses caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. It’s most frequently transmitted by people living within close quarters of each other or kissing. Those who get the infection typically are extremely ill causing infections in the blood as well as infection of the brain, called meningitis. Symptoms may initially resemble a minor viral infection but can rapidly worsen and lead to death in a matter of hours. Fortunately meningococcal disease is pretty rare.
The need for vaccination was punctuated two years ago when the Ohio Senate honored the memory of Ohio Senator Cliff Hite’s niece, who died within hours after contracting meningococcal meningitis, by marking March 9th as Meningitis Awareness Day.
The mandates follow the Center for Disease Control’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations to vaccinate teens during this particular period of time in adolescent’s lives when it can be most beneficial to them – in preparation for the more prominent exposure risk during high school and college. They recommend that:
- Adolescents receive the meningococcal vaccine at 11-12 years of age and then a booster dose at 16 ; OR
- Adolescents who received their first dose at age 13-15 years of age should receive a booster at age 16-18 (at least 8 weeks and up to 5 years after their first dose); OR
- Adolescents who received their first dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at or after 16 years of age do not need a booster; OR
- Adolescents who are unvaccinated or previously vaccinated first-year college students through 21 years of age living in residence halls who received their last dose before their 16th birthday, should receive a single dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine
Because your adolescent may have received the meningococcal vaccine at a time different from the current recommended schedule, it’s important to speak with your doctor to determine the best timing for vaccine administration to protect against this preventable and potentially detrimental disease.