New Vaccines Required by Schools for N.C. Teens
In spring 2014, the North Carolina Commission on Public Health enacted a change in the vaccination schedule that will affect middle and high school students next year. Under the new requirements, students who enroll in seventh grade after July 1, 2015, will need to be vaccinated against meningitis and other meningococcal diseases. Students who enroll in 12th grade after July 1, 2020, will also be required to have an additional booster.
All children in public and private schools in North Carolina must have received the immunizations mandated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for entry into school. However, if they have a valid medical or religious exemption, they are not required to be vaccinated.
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that includes meningitis and septicemia (blood infection), according to WebMD. About 50 percent of meningococcal cases are meningococcal meningitis. Although rare, the infection can be fatal. Meningitis, which can swell tissues around the brain and spinal cord, develops rapidly and can claim the life of an otherwise healthy person in as little as one day after the first symptoms appear. Common activities such as kissing, sharing utensils and water bottles, and living in close quarters such as a dormitory or sleep-away summer camp can increase the risk of exposure to the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.
According to the latest National Immunization Survey conducted by the CDC, and reported by the N.C. Pediatric Society, just over half (54 percent) of North Carolina teens are vaccinated against meningococcal disease. The society applauded the recent rule change, saying it brings North Carolina’s vaccination standards for these diseases in line with national recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC.
If you have a child under age 2, it may seem that you’re frequently heading to the pediatrician for shots. The frequency of recommended immunizations is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. You can view the recommended immunizations for children birth through age 18 at cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html.
Odile Fredericks is a mother of two and the web editor for Carolina Parent. You can read her Daily Post blogs on carolinaparent.com.