Twelfth-grade students in North Carolina are being required to have an additional immunization before the 2020-21 school year begins.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that a booster dose of meningococcal conjugant vaccine (MenACWY) is needed, beginning Aug. 1, for 12th graders to attend public, private and religious schools.
DHHS said that students may not be allowed to attend school until they receive the booster dose.
DHHS communications director Kelly Haight Connor said the agency will provide additional guidance “in light of so much virtual learning” projected to occur at the start of the school year.
For example, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will conduct the first nine-week semester online.
"To my knowledge, the immunization rules, which are state-legislated rules, are not changing per the state," said WSFCS spokesman Brent Campbell. "At this point, we have not been notified otherwise."
"We will follow our same procedure as in years past, using our nurses and social workers to help identify any students out of compliance.
"The individuals will work with their parents, their doctor, the health department, and/or our mobile medical clinic to make sure the families can get the appointments and what is needed within the required deadlines," Campbell said.
The MenACWY vaccine helps protect against four common strains of meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W and Y) that cause diseases, including infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).
“The MenACWY vaccine is the best protection against meningococcal disease, which most often affects young people,” said Dr. Kelly Kimple, chief of the Women’s and Children’s Health Section of the N.C. Division of Public Health.
All 11- and 12-year-olds should receive one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
A booster dose of MenACWY should be given at age 16 for adolescents entering the 12th grade, or by 17 years of age, whichever comes first. Adolescents who receive their first dose of MenACWY on or after their 16th birthday do not need a booster dose.
“It is vital that children and adolescents continue to receive all their immunizations on schedule to ensure they are fully protected against all vaccine-preventable diseases, including some of the major causes of meningitis,” Kimple said.
There are two age-appropriate vaccines that meet this requirement and provide the necessary protection, Menactra and Menveo.
Parents are recommended to ask their child’s immunizing provider if they are properly protected, or if an additional vaccine is needed.
Teens and young adults are at increased risk for infection with meningococcal disease.
Infection has two common outcomes: meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and sepsis (bloodstream infections).
Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. With bloodstream infection, symptoms also include a dark purple rash. About 1 of every 10 people who gets the disease dies from it.
Even with treatment, an infection with meningococcal disease can lead to death within a few hours. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include loss of limbs, hearing loss and brain damage.
The bacteria that cause this infection can spread when people have close contact with someone’s saliva, such as through kissing, coughing or sharing eating utensils and cups.
For more information on all vaccine requirements for 12th graders in North Carolina, go to www.immunize.nc.gov/schools.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!