Iowa Health Officials: Include Meningitis Vaccine

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- School is just one week away for most students in Eastern Iowa.

Iowa health officials want parents to be aware of meningitis immunization requirements that went into effect last year.

These requirements are for students entering seventh grade or their senior year.

The Linn County Public Health Department says there is a chance students can be sent home if they don't get the meningitis vaccine, but they want parents to know, there's still time to get the vaccine before school starts for most students next week.

"Iowa code states if you do not have all those vaccines that you are in violation of the code and would not be able to attend school, the purpose of the code is not to keep kids out of school, we want kids in school, we want kids to be educated learners, but we need them to be healthy while they're doing that," says Heather Meador, Clinic Branch Supervisor of Linn County Public Health.

Students entering 7th grade will need to get one dose of the meningitis vaccine and a second dose by the time they enter 12th grade.

In 2016, Iowa lawmakers voted to add the meningitis vaccine to a list of shots students must get in order to attend class.

Public health officials say the disease is spread through close contact with people, especially in high school and college settings.

"With adolescents, the way meningitis is spread is through saliva contact and when you look at that adolescent population, they're sharing lip gross, drinks, utensils, water bottles, so they're a very high risk," says Heather Meador, Clinic Branch Supervisor of Linn County Public Health.

The disease itself is pretty rare with only three cases reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health in 2016.

Meningitis can cause hearing loss, brain damage or in the worst cases even death.

If families have any religious objections or medical conditions that would prevent someone from getting a vaccine, they can get a waiver from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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