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State needs more time to implement new requirement for getting meningitis vaccine

A new law requiring middle high school students Illinois get vaccinated prevent bacterial meningitis goes ineffect Jan. 1 although actual

A new law requiring middle and high school students in Illinois to get vaccinated to prevent bacterial meningitis goes into effect Jan. 1, although actual implementation will not happen until the 2015-16 school year. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: January 25, 2014 6:03AM

Although the law requiring middle and high school students in Illinois to get vaccinated to prevent bacterial meningitis goes into effect Jan. 1, actual implementation will not happen until the 2015-16 school year.

Melanie Arnold, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the states needs more time to finish the administrative side of the new vaccine obligation.

The State Board of Health is required to conduct three public hearings whenever any changes are proposed to the administrative rules regarding immunization of children against vaccine-preventable communicable diseases.

In addition to the hearings, time must be set aside for public comments and administrative reviews. Then the state needs at least six months after the new rule is adopted to notify schools, parents, and health care providers.

William Moran, chief of the immunization section of the IDPH, said the new law will require students who are entering the sixth and 12th grades of any public, private or parochial school to receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, known as MCV4, in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

What is meningitis?

The immunization requirement consists of one dose of the MCV4 vaccine for sixth-graders and two doses for 12th-graders, unless the first dose was administered to a child who was 16 years or older. Then only one dose would be required for seniors in high school.

“Even though the meningococcal requirement will not go into effect until the 2015 school year, we encourage providers to vaccinate against meningococcal according to ACIP recommendations,” Moran said.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Viral meningitis is not as severe as bacterial meningitis and is usually resolved without specific treatment. While the more severe bacterial meningitis may be contained through antibiotics or prevented through immunization, it can cause serious health problems in 11 to 19 percent of survivors such as loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, mental retardation, seizures and strokes. The CDC estimates 1,000 to 2,600 people contract meningococcal disease each year in the United States, and one that in 10 of these cases results in death.


Kate Marishta, assistant director for communicable disease with the Kane County Health Department, said initial symptoms often resemble the common flu: headache, high fever, stiff neck, or a dark purple rash. Because the disease rapidly progresses downward once initial symptoms are observed, it is for that reason people at high risk for meningitis receive the immunization.

Marishta said teens ages 15 to 19 are more at risk when they share straws, cups, cigarettes or eating utensils or when kissing.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Bob Tiballi of Germ Busters in Elgin said 80 percent of meningitis cases involve people who live in close quarters, such as college students in dormitories or military recruits in barracks. The remaining 20 percent are sporadic community outbreaks.

At the recommendation of the ACIP in 2000, many colleges now require incoming freshman to get vaccinated.

In 2005, the ACIP expanded its recommendation to include young adolescents (at 11- to 12-year physician visit) and students entering high school.

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