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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Though the last day of school is still fresh in most parents’ minds, here’s something to remember before the first day of classes rolls around in August: Students entering 7th and 12th grades need a meningococcal vaccine. 

This is a new immunization requirement, and is effective for the 2017-2018 school year. And though supplies of the vaccine are plentiful, parents should make arrangements now to reduce the risk of forgetting to do so in the back-to-school rush.

Meningococcal disease is a very serious, life-threatening illness,” says Nancy Yelden, manager of the Clayton County office of the Visiting Nurses Association. (VNA) The symptoms mimic flu but the patients goes downhill very, very quickly.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 to 15 percent of people with meningococcal disease die, even with appropriate treatment. Of those who recover, up to 20 percent have serious after-effects, including hearing loss, limb loss, and brain damage.

The current vaccine protects against four different strains of the disease and is 85 to 100 percent effective at preventing infection, Yelden said. A one-time dose is required on the following schedule: on or after 10 years of age for students in grades 7 and above if born after September 4, 2004, and two doses with one received on or after 16 years of agefor students in grade 12, if born after September 15, 199, or one dose if received when students are older than 16 years of age. 

Teens and young adults are at increased risk for the disease. Yelden said that college students living in a close environment are equally susceptible. The immunization protects both the individual and the people around them.

Side effects of the vaccine are minimal and include a low-grade fever and tenderness at the injection site. For many people, there are no side effects.

VNA has a supply of the vaccine, which is available to clients who meet their criteria (Title 19, Medicaid, under-insured, no insurance). All other patients must make arrangements from immunization through their healthcare providers.

For more information on the new meningitis vaccine requirement and for other school vaccine information, visit You can also direct immunization questions to the VNA at 563-245-1145.

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