If you live in New York and your kids don't have the meningococcal vaccine, you should call the doctor — soon. A law taking effect Thursday requires all children going into seventh and 12th grades to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, according to a recent news release from the New York State Department of Health. It doesn't matter whether your kid is in private or public school — he or she still has to get the shot.
"Immunizing children and young adults at these ages is critical to protecting them from this potentially fatal and devastating disease," Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said in the statement. "We are fortunate to have a vaccine for meningitis and urge parents to stay on top of their children's vaccine requirements."
The vaccine protects against meningococcal disease, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, includes any illness involving the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. It spreads from person to person via kissing, coughing or other close personal contact. From there, it can cause meningitis — an infection in a person's brain and spinal cord membranes — or Meningococcemia — an infection that can damage your blood vessels and organs.
Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it's still dangerous. It kills about 10-15 people out of every 100 infected, and the people who survive often have long-term effects, according to the CDC.
"When it’s required, it’s required — and for good reasons," New York's East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns told 27east.com.
Because adolescents are among the demographic groups most likely to be affected, 27 states mandate that students receive the meningococcal vaccine before starting school. Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas are among them, according to immunize.org.
The 2016-2017 academic year is the first for which Delaware will require its ninth graders to have the vaccine. In Ohio, seventh and 12th graders will also have to have the immunization. Dr. William Long, a pediatrician in Columbus, told WOSU he believes people are complying. "I’m seeing children not only come into my office but I’m also getting reports from pharmacies that have given vaccines to my patients," he said.
See a list of other immunizations required for school here.