Changes in Iowa public health law to impact students

Meningococcal vaccine now required for incoming seventh and 12th graders

Meningococcal disease, a bacterial form of meningitis, is a rare, yet serious illness, most often affecting infants, preteens, teens and young adults. While receiving the vaccine was previously a suggested measure for youths, it is now a requirement under Iowa law.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health: “For the 2017-18 school year, and all future school years, all students entering, advancing or transferring into 7th grade and born after Sept. 15, 2004, will need proof of one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY). All students entering, advancing, or transferring into 12th grade and born after September 15, 1999, will need proof of two doses of meningococcal (A, C W, Y) vaccine (1 dose received on or after 16 years of age); or 1 dose if received when the student was 16 years of age or older.”

“This change is a big deal,” said MHS Nurse/District Nurse Stacey Tool-Crawford. “Once we found out about the new law, we sent out letters to parents and have been part of a public awareness campaign.”

Tool-Crawford and fellow nurses have joined forces to help ensure students get the vaccine. Representatives from Marshall County Public Health, including nurse Pat Thompson, will be made available to administer this vaccine free of charge during school registration sessions, for those students who qualify through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. Those who don’t qualify, will still be given important information on why the vaccine is required and where he/she can go to receive the shot.

Students entering grades 1-12 in the fall will register for classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 8. Grades 1-8 will register at Miller Middle School, and grades 9-12 will register at Marshalltown High School.

“While it’s rare, meningococcal disease can be life threatening,” said Thompson. “Even with proper treatment, 10-15 percent of infected people die from it, and 20 percent can have permanent problems.”

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria that infects the brain, blood and spinal cord. Symptoms can mimic the flu, and include fever, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, muscle, leg or joint pan, rash and purple spots, and more.

“It used to be a vaccine just encouraged for those entering college, but, it affects people younger more often,” Tool-Crawford said.

Meningococcal bacteria spreads through upper respiratory droplets, including saliva, with people living in close quarters most vulnerable.

Tool-Crawford said most incoming 12th graders should have received at least one dose of the vaccine at this stage in their lives.

“The main worry is really the incoming seventh graders, and those entering 12th grade that need the second dose and haven’t gotten it yet. Those students needing the second dose have 60 days it get it, but students who never got the first dose will not be able to enter school until they do.”

If you are uncertain as to whether or not your child has received the vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or child’s school nurse.

For a complete list of Iowa Immunization Requirements visit: