Parents of high school juniors — you’ve got one year to get your teenager a booster meningitis shot, if you haven’t already.
The Minnesota Department of Health has required since 2015 that teenagers receive meningitis boosters, but enacted a grace period until fall 2020 before it started monitoring high school health records.
“This next year schools will see the meningococcal vaccine requirement on their annual school immunization report,” said Kris Ehresmann, who directs immunization programs for the state health department. “It is a ‘practice’ year for them to enter the data. They can see what the requirement looks like in the report and see what data they will have to submit. Next year, 2020, they will have to submit the data” to the state.
Vaccination against meningitis has been recommended for years, with children encouraged to receive initial doses around seventh grade and then booster doses when they turn 16.
The decision to mandate the vaccine — with some exceptions for religious or health reasons — followed sporadic reports in recent years of college-age students suffering severe illnesses or dying from bacterial meningitis infections.
More than 78% of adolescents ages 13 to 17 have received at least one dose of vaccine against meningitis, said a 2018 report from the Minnesota Department of Health. Uptake of the booster dose is lacking, though. Only 26.9% received that additional shot, the report said.
School nurses were spreading the word about the mandate and the new reporting requirement at the State Fair. While formal reporting takes place next school year, the goal is to get ahead and get as many high school students immunized this year, said Deb Mehr, president of the School Nurses Organization of Minnesota, and a school nurse for District 196. Five immunization clinics were held in her district this summer at school sites, she said.
“Most health care providers are trying to be prudent,” she said, “and get these kids protected.”