SIDNEY — New vaccination requirements for all Ohio children entering seventh and 12th grades go into effect this year, following state legislation enacted in July 2015.
In addition to the long-required Tdap vaccine required for seventh-graders, they are now required to also be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis.
Twelfth-graders must also be innoculated. The vaccine is usually given in two doses. This year’s seventh-graders will be required to be innoculated again after their 16th birthdays and before they enter 12th grade.
This year’s 12th graders must be vaccinated prior to the opening day of school. If they are 16 or older when they get the vaccine, they do not need to get a second dose.
The requirement comes in response to the death of a legislator’s niece.
According to the Ohio Senate website, Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) sponsored Senate Bill 121, which works in conjunction with the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Immunization Advocacy Network of Ohio to require students of ages recommended by the Ohio Department of Health to be immunized against meningococcal disease.
“If untreated, 50 percent of (people who contract bacterial meningitis) die,” said Margie Eilerman, director of nursing for the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department. “Even with treatment, 5 to 10 percent die within 24 hours of the onset of the disease.”
It is spread through the sharing of beverages or cigarettes or being in close quarters with infected people.
“They targeted middle school because that’s when they start kissing, sharing drinks and things like that,” Eilerman said.
The booster given before students’ senior years protects them when they begin to share close quarters in college dormitories or military barracks. Some colleges require proof that students have been vaccinated before they will admit them campus.
Until the legislation passed, Ohio was one of 27 states that did not require a vaccination against meningococcal disease. The vaccine has been available as an option since 1974. The new law protects a parent’s right to opt their children out of the immunizations for matters of conscience, including religious beliefs.
According to Eilerman, there are two types of miningitis, viral and bacterial.
“But bacterial is more deadly,” she said.
“Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. While most people with meningitis recover, permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities can result from the infection,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
“Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light) and altered mental status (confusion),” the website says.
“The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within three to seven days after exposure.
“In newborns and babies, the classic meningitis symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The baby may appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young babies, doctors may also look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes, which can also be signs of meningitis. If you think your baby or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.
“Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible.”
Parents can get their children vaccinated at the health department or their doctors’ offices. Pharmacies also can administer the vaccine to students who are 14 and older.
To make an appointment at the health department, call 498-7249.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.