Back to School Vaccines: Getting Protected from Potentially Dangerous Diseases
School just let out, but it’s not too early to think about your back-to-school to-do list. In addition to an annual health checkup visit for their children, parents may need to be reminded of needed immunizations.
Incoming 7th and 12th graders are now required to have immunizations against meningococcal disease. This safe and effective immunization protects against four of the most deadly meningococcal strains (A,C,W, and Y) and is first recommended at age 11-12, with a booster dose at age 16. This vaccine is not new—it has been used for years in primary care practices. But because of the safety and effectiveness of the immunization series, it became a requirement for Ohio students this year.
Meningococcal disease can be devastating and often strikes unexpectedly in otherwise healthy people, causing infections in the brain and spinal cord. The disease can cause permanent disabilities, disfigurement and even death. While the disease isn’t extremely common, the complication and death rates are high in patients with the illness. Teens and young adults are at a higher risk because it can be spread easily through sharing glasses, eating utensils and water bottles, kissing, or living in close quarters (such as college dorms, apartments, and military barracks). You can read more about meningococcal disease, symptoms and prevention here.
Many pediatricians are offering another vaccine for meningococcal disease caused by the “B” strain of the bacteria. This vaccine is also not new, but a “permissive” recommendation has been added so that it can be given to adolescents 16 to 18 years old. This vaccine is given in a 2 or 3 dose series, depending on the product used. This vaccine is NOT required for school, but recommended for complete vaccine coverage for all strains. The vaccine is given separately because the immunity works better and lasts through college years if it is given this way between ages 16 and 18.
Incoming 7th graders in Ohio are also required to receive a Tdap shot (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis/whooping cough), making it very easy for parents to schedule their student for a well visit and receive all necessary vaccines during the same visit. Contact your provider to find out about all immunizations your child needs.
Both the TdaP and the meningococcal vaccines can be given at the 11-year checkup visit. Your child does not have to wait until entering 7th grade to be protected against these diseases.
There is a new resource for parents to learn more about immunizations when they aren’t able to ask their pediatrician or family doctor, or to prepare themselves to ask questions during the physician visit – the Fast VAX Facts mobile app from the Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and Ohio Department of Health.
The free app allows parents to create a log-in and privately enter their children’s date of birth to see what immunizations are upcoming. It also includes:
- A series of short videos recorded by a pediatrician on targeted topics that address the most common immunization questions and concerns
- An interactive immunization schedule customized by child’s age
- Trusted answers to frequently asked questions
- Breaking news alerts on outbreaks, new research and other important immunization headlines
- Pediatrician-approved links and resources
- The ability to share reliable facts and resources with friends and family at the push of a button