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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.


NIAM – Shots for the College Bound

10 Aug

Is your child heading off to college? Are you heading off to college? If so, congratulations! College is a time for learning and growth, from gaining knowledge in a chosen field to realizing that all-nighters are the worst way to study for a first midterm. You’re probably already thinking about what needs to be done before the fall semester starts. Let’s help you check off one thing on the list: immunizations that can protect freshmen from several infectious diseases, before they even step a foot into the dorms.

Immunizations for California Schools

Not sure where to start? Check out the California Department of Public Health’s college and university Immunization website. This offers current recommendations and screening requirements for CA schools with student housing. Remember, adult children up to age 26 are now covered under their parent’s health insurance and recommended immunizations should be available without any copayment.

While school entry requirements vary, recommended immunizations for students entering CA colleges and universities may include:

Rules vary from one campus to another. Currently, California laws and executive orders require proof of immunity against measles and rubella for the California State University (CSU) system. Both CSU and the University of California (UC) require proof of the completed Hepatitis B vaccination series for all students up to age 18.

If you’ve never heard about meningococcal disease (commonly known as meningitis), this is an important one since college freshmen in dorms are at higher risk. Meningococcal meningitis is an infection that can escalate in a matter of hours from a rash to fever, coma, limb amputations, and death. This cautionary tale told by a college student who survived  the disease is deeply moving.

Bound for an out-of-state college?  Immunization requirements vary by school and state. Check your college’s welcome package to see what’s required. You can also check out the CDC’s website on vaccines and immunizations recommended for college students and young adults.

Preparing for college is big step towards independence for so many young adults. Get the shots out of the way so your main focus can be on choosing a major—or, for parents, on how to redecorate your new spare bedroom.