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Effective fall of 2017, there is a new state of Iowa requirement for all children entering 7th and 12th grade to be immunized for meningitis.
To keep children safe from meningococcal disease, a severe bacterial infection that attacks the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This serious illness is caused by a specific bacteria known to “hang out” in groups of children who “hang out”, specifically pre-teens and teenagers in schools.
The prevention of meningococcal disease is vitally important because the consequences of contracting an infection are so dire. Even patients who receive appropriate treatment (prompt antibiotics and hospitalization) result in a death rate of 10-15%. In patients who recover, approximately 20% have lasting medical problems including brain damage, permanent hearing loss, and limb amputations.
In the past, one dose of meningococcal vaccine was given in late adolescence (16-21 years of age) to protect children during their peak risk of contracting meningococcal disease.
This prevented infection in college dormitories and military barracks; environments in which the combination of close quarters and a bunch of respiratory secretions, allow the disease to spread quickly.
An early adolescent vaccine (11-13 years) was introduced in 2005 to improve immunity to meningococcal disease. Since then, the incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased leading many states to require vaccinations for school-aged children.
As a pediatrician, it is my job to keep children safe and healthy. Meningococcal vaccine (like all other childhood vaccines) has been rigorously tested and has been proven to be safe and effective.
Immunizations may sting for a brief minute, but prevention of a potentially deadly disease is certainly worth it… that’s something parents and doctors (and now schools!) can agree upon.
If your child has already received the vaccine at their annual well child exam, great! If not, please contact your pediatrician or primary care doctor to schedule an appointment for the meningitis vaccine.
No shot? No school!
Contact The Iowa Clinic to schedule an appointment for your child today at 515-875-9000.
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Dr. Dan Pelzer is a board-certified general pediatrician accepting new patients at The Iowa Clinic West Des Moines and Ankeny locations. He is a native Iowan and received his medical education and residency training at the University of Iowa. He enjoys running, golf, and exploring Des Moines with his wife, Diana, and dog, Moose.