Last year, New York state began requiring students entering grades 7 and 12 to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease. For the 2017-18 school year, students entering eighth grade who did not receive their first dose on or before the start of seventh grade must also meet the requirement.
Does your child need to be vaccinated before the start of the 2017-18 school year to meet this requirement?
The answer depends on more than just your child’s age and grade level. When, or if, a child has previously been vaccinated for meningococcal disease will determine when shots will be necessary under the state’s requirements that went into effect Sept. 1, 2016:
- One dose of meningococcal vaccine before seventh grade. If a student had the first dose as a sixth grader, then another dose is not required until grade 12.
- One dose of meningococcal vaccine before eighth grade. If a student had the first dose as a seventh grader, then another dose is not required until grade 12.
- A total of two doses are required before grade 12. Most students entering grade 12 received their first dose when they were younger and will be due for their second dose, or booster. This booster is needed because protection from the vaccine decreases over time.
- The only teens who will not need a second dose before grade 12 are those who received their first dose on or after their 16th birthday.
Parents are encouraged to check with their children’s physicians prior to the start of the new school year to determine when or if they need to be vaccinated.
In October 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a law that 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.
Students not up-to-date may not be allowed to attend school until they are vaccinated.
Each school year, more grade levels will be affected by the requirement. As students who enrolled in grade 7 during the 2016-17 school year move up a grade level, students enrolling in those higher grades, or grade equivalent, who did not receive the vaccine in grade 7 must still meet the two dose meningococcal vaccine requirement.
So that means for the 2017-18 school year, any entering eighth-graders who didn’t receive the vaccine must do so in order to attend school.
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 law targets many in this age group and aligns with the CDC’s recommendation to vaccinate 11- to 18-year-olds against meningococcal disease.