Incoming seniors will need shots before fall
Due to a recent change in state law, incoming high school seniors might be shocked to learn that they will need a vaccine before returning to school next fall.
The Iowa Department of Public Health changed the state’s immunization law earlier this year, requiring that all students entering 12th grade receive a Meningococcal vaccine before the start of the 2017-18 school year. The law went into effect in January.
“It’s a new law and there are no grace periods,” said Mary Hill, a registered nurse with the Fairfield Community School District. “I’m sending out a letter to parents with [students’] report cards. We also put information about it on our web page. All parents need to make sure that their 11th grader gets their shot.”
However, the Meningococcal vaccine is not only a requirement for rising seniors, Jefferson County Public Health nurse Mandi Lauderman said its a recommendation for middle school students as well.
“It’s recommended for students in the seventh grade to get the shot, and then a booster in the 12th grade prior to going to college,” she said, adding that seventh-graders are already required to get a Tetanus Diphtheria Pertussis shot and an elective Human Papillomavirus vaccine as well.
“We’re trying to get them in with the Tdap, and if interested, the HPV, but that one is kind of a controversial subject,” she said.
As far as the Meningococcal vaccine is concerned, Hill said parents of current eleventh graders could start now taking their students in for the vaccine.
“We just want to make sure that our kids are vaccinated, so that they can be protected,” Hill said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis. Around one out of 10 people have this type of bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease, they are called “carriers.” However, sometimes Neisseria Meningitidis can invade the body causing certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease.
The illness is transmitted from person to person, and the bacterium spreads via respiratory and throat secretions, such as saliva during close or lengthy contact.
“Iowa is so strict on its immunizations, and we take great pride in the health of our young people,” Hill said. [Meningococcal] affects the brain and spinal cord and many times when students are off to college they can come in contact with the bacteria, and it spreads really easily in crowded areas, such as dorms … immunize them now. That should take care of that and protect them.”
Hill said she initially wanted to offer the shots at the school to ensure that students would be immunized. However, the state declined permission.
Now, she sending out a letter in hopes that parents will be proactive and get their students vaccinated.
“I know our nurses will make sure that they are taking care of the students. Our staff is always keeping up with the latest requirements that the state puts forward,” Laurie Noll.
Lauderman said the public health department recommends that 11th graders be vaccinated before the start of their senior year. However, the state provides a 60-day provision if students are not vaccinated prior to the start of school, but it would be up to the school district’s policy.
“Our recommendation would be ‘yes’ get the shot, but when we do audits they would be given a 60- day provisional to get it completed — that’s mandated by the state of Iowa. However is up to institutional policy,” she said.
The Fairfield Community School District is not offering a grace or extension period for the implementation of this requirement.
Lauderman said those with valid religious or medical waivers would be exempt from getting the vaccine.
Lauderman said those who are underinsured or who have Medicaid are welcome to get vaccinated at the Jefferson County Public Health immunization clinic.
“Technically, we do not charge, but the person would have to be underinsured or have Medicaid. We don’t charge if parents don’t have insurance, but a good-will offering is accepted. There are so many options available,” she said, adding that those with regular physicians can make an appointment at their own doctor’s office for the vaccines.
The immunization clinic is open from 1-4 p.m. every Tuesday.
“You don’t have to have an appointment, there are two nurses on staff who give shots at the same time,” Lauderman said. “We have immunizations for children, and we do have a few things available for adults as well.”
For more information, contact Hill at 472-2059 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.