New vaccines needed before Clark County students return to school

Parents and students are running out of time to get a newly-required meningitis vaccine before the start of the next school year.

Local health leaders have been working with city and county schools to notify parents of the change, said Patricia Free, nursing director at the Clark County Combined Health District.

As part of a push to boost protection for students, state lawmakers added the meningococcal vaccine to the list of “required” shots for schoolchildren.

Both 7th graders and 12th graders are required to have one dose of the meningitis vaccine.

If 12th graders older than age 16 already had a dose of the vaccine when they were 11 or 12 years old, Free said, they will need an additional dose.

If they have not had any doses, they will be required to have the one dose after age 16.

“Failure to provide documentation of these vaccines will result in exclusion from school until the requirement is met,” reads a letter the CCCHD sent home to parents.

Ohio does allow parents who object to vaccines to opt out.

Ohio’s immunization rate has significantly dropped in recent years — from 3rd best in the nation to 49th, said Rocking Horse Center nurse practitioner Sherri Moore.

“It is important for Ohio to improve vaccination rates in order to protect our youth from this deadly disease,” she said of the new meningitis requirement.

As things stand, about 69 percent of young people in Ohio are vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, vaccine coverage is close to 78 percent.

There are about 100 cases of meningitis on college campuses across the country each year.

Bacterial meningitis, which can inflame the lining of the brain and the spinal cord and lead to blood infection, can be deadly, and it moves with speed, doctors said.

“Meningitis can be fatal in up to 15 percent of the people who contract the infection,” Moore said.

Meningitis does not make everyone sick. Carriers can be perfectly healthy and have no idea they’re spreading it through saliva. Kissing, sharing beverages or cigarettes and being in close quarters with other people (such as in college dorms) all boost the risk of infection.

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