State now requires meningitis vaccination in grades 7, 12

Beginning Sept. 1, 2016, students entering seventh and 12th grades must be vaccinated against meningococcal disease in order to attend school in New York state.

The state Department of Health notified school districts that a new law, approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October, requires immunizations against meningococcal disease for children at ages 11 or 12 and again at 16 years of age or older, as recommended by the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The law is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, 2016.

Under the new law, one dose of meningococcal vaccine is required before 7th grade. If a child had the first dose as a sixth-grader, then another dose is not required until 12th grade. A total of 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. The only students who will not need a second dose before 12th grade are those who got their first dose on or after their 16th birthday.

Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the lining covering the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infections such as septicemia. Symptoms of the disease include a high fever, headache, vomiting, a stiff neck and a rash. The meningococcus bacterium is treatable with antibiotics, but each year it causes approximately 2,500 infections and 300 deaths in the United States. Those who contract the disease may experience permanent brain damage, hearing loss, kidney failure, loss of arms or legs, or chronic nervous system problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the highest rates of meningococcal disease to be among preteens, teens, and young adults, as well as among infants with certain medical conditions. The new law targets many in this age group and aligns with the CDC’s recommendation to vaccinate 11- to 18-year-olds against meningococcal disease.

Learn more about meningococcal disease and the meningococcal disease vaccine at the links below: