As of Sept. 1, 2016, all public and private school students entering 7th and 12th grades in New York State must be fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease 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.
The vaccine is administered as a shot.
Before school this September:
- One dose of meningococcal vaccine is required before 7th grade. If your 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 got 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.
- 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.
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 percent to 15 percent of people who get sick will die. Another 10 percent 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.