New IZ Programs: States’ Patchwork of School Vaccine Requirements

31 Aug

Medical science marches on. That’s why vaccine requirements change. A national body, known as ACIP, makes recommendations based on the latest science.  State governments also enact laws to protect the public’s health. Case in point:  California’s new Tdap law for 7th-12th graders. But we also know that other vaccines, like meningococcal, are recommended for preteens and teens, but not required. What gives?

Lone Star State Adopts New Meningococcal Vaccine Requirement

It turns out, every state sets its own school requirements.  So, while a hand-full of vaccines are recommended for adolescents, whether you can get into school without them varies by state and by school.

Setting a new standard, Texas passed  the first state law (honoring a teen meningitis survivor Jamie Schanbaum) to require that every college student get the meningococcal vaccine. No vaccination, no classes! But most states don’t have this across-the-board requirement. Check out this video featuring college students’ attitudes about meningitis. It raises the question:  Will those at-risk feel compelled on their own to get vaccinated? Maybe or maybe not.

Still in Discussion: Meningococcal Vaccine for infants

Currently, meningococcal vaccine is only recommended starting at age 11. Is the disease a threat to younger children? There certainly are tragic cases.

This summer, the CDC embarked on an unprecedented period of public comment to ask parents directly what they think about vaccinating younger children against bacterial meningitis. It’s the first time the CDC is putting weight on public opinion as well as the science when it comes to making a new vaccine recommendation.

Our democratic society often gives us predicaments. Do we continue to mandate vaccines for the greater good based on scientific expertise, or should we open this up for public debate? While those with strong feelings may not have medical expertise, some do have devastating personal experiences to draw on.  Tyler’s story and Jessica’s story are just two examples of families who saw how bacterial meningitis ravaged their young children.  And, perhaps they, like Jamie Schanbaum of Texas, will add to the weight of the science.

What do you think? Should we leave science to the experts to make recommendations? Should anyone be able to comment on public health laws? Do we wait for states to amend their vaccination laws one at a time or is there a better way? Voice your thoughts.

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One Response to “New IZ Programs: States’ Patchwork of School Vaccine Requirements”

  1. Tammy August 31, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    An interesting question! While the public should have an opportunity to voice questions or concerns, the utimate decision should be made by experts who understand the science and can weigh the medical advantages of preventing disease in our population. As we see with school laws, compliance goes way up! Otherwise even those who might mean to get around to getting vaccinated may never do so. Laws do seeem to have their place.

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