Ohio Teens Now Required to Get Meningitis Vaccine

Although it has been strongly recommended by doctors for years, Ohio law is now requiring students to get a vaccination to prevent meningitis, and one to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis).

Students entering the 7th and 12th grades must get the meningococcal vaccine, while those entering the 7th grade must also receive a Tdap shot, a tetanus and diphtheria shot, which in recent years has been made to also protect against whooping cough, a chronic cough with no effective treatment. Students who have had a meningitis vaccine after their 16th birthday do not need to get the booster shot prior to their senior year. Click here to see the Ohio Department of Health’s summary chart of vaccines for reference.

Matt Roth, MD, a family and sports medicine physician at ProMedica Arrowhead Medical Center, says he is pleased to see the vaccination requirements made into law.

“To see the laws catch up to what we know from a medical standpoint is helpful and helps us in our case to convince parents and the kids about the importance of it,” he says.

Especially Important for Adolescents and Teens

Protecting against bacterial meningitis is particularly important for adolescents and teenagers, Roth says.

“Meningitis is an infection involving the lining of the brain and spinal cord,” Roth explains. The bacterial form can come on quickly, potentially causing blindness, brain damage, hearing loss, and even death.

Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, neck pains and stiffness, as well as respiratory difficulties.

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“It hits within 24-48 hours, so you don’t really have time to get the booster during an outbreak,” he says. “The take-home lesson is to not wait to get your booster until something happens.”

Meningitis is most often found in the early adolescent and college years, when subjects live in close quarters. It is spread from person to person by the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions from coughing or kissing, normally during close or lengthy contact.

Most people with meningitis recover, but bacterial meningitis can cause death within a few hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Offices have been busy with adolescents getting their vaccinations, Roth notes.

“Looking at my schedule, it looks like it’s pretty busy with school physicals for that age group,” he says.

The state does allow parents and children to opt out of the vaccine for personal convictions. Learn more from the Ohio Department of Health’s website.