Time to vaccinate against meningococcal

FONDA — As of Sept. 1, all public and private school students entering seventh, eighth, ninth and 12th grades in New York state must be fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease types A, C, W and Y in order to attend school.

The meningococcal vaccine protects against serious and sometimes deadly diseases such as meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and sepsis (blood infections). That’s why the vaccine is sometimes called the meningitis vaccine.

Before school this September:

∫ One dose of meningococcal vaccine is required before seventh, eighth, ninth grade. If your child had the first dose as a sixth grader, then another dose is not required until 12th grade.

∫ Two doses will be required before 12th grade. Most students entering 12th grade received their first dose when they were younger and are now due for their second dose, or booster. This booster is needed because protection from the vaccine decreases over time.

∫ A small number of teens who received two doses before their 16th birthday may need a third dose on or after their 16th birthday in order to enter 12th grade.

∫ The only teens who will not need a second dose before 12th grade are those who got their first dose on or after their 16th birthday.

It’s best to check with your doctor to see whether or not your child needs the vaccine. Students who are not up-to-date will not be allowed to attend school until they are vaccinated. Health clinics and doctors’ offices are especially busy during the last few weeks of August, so it’s smart to make an appointment with your health care provider as early as possible.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but dangerous disease that strikes healthy young people without warning. It can cause meningitis and sepsis. Meningococcal infections can be treated with antibiotics. But, even with treatment, about 10 to 15 percent of people who get sick will die. Another 10 to 20 percent will survive but suffer lifelong disabilities such as hearing loss, loss of arms or legs, or brain damage.

Why is the

vaccine required?

The meningococcal vaccine is the best protection from this very serious disease. It can affect all ages, but teens and young adults are at highest risk of getting the disease.

Meningococcal disease spreads easily in large groups and in dormitory-like settings. An infected person can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, by kissing a person on the mouth, or by sharing a glass or cup. That’s why it is so important to make sure teens and young adults get vaccinated when they are most at risk.

The meningococcal vaccine has been recommended by many health care providers for more than a decade. It is a school requirement in more than 20 states and many colleges currently require incoming students to have the vaccine.

Which vaccine does my preteen or teen need?

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine* is the preferred vaccine for preteens and teens. It helps protect them from the four most common types (types A, C, W and Y) of meningococcal disease in the U.S. This is the vaccine they will need in order to satisfy the school requirement before September.

Another meningococcal vaccine is also available for teens. It is the Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. This vaccine is not required for school entry and cannot be used to fulfill the school entrance requirement. It helps protect against a different type of meningococcal disease, and it can be given to teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23 years. It can also be given to people 10 and older who have certain medical conditions. It may be given at the same time as the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, but preferably in different arms.

By Josh Bovee

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