New immunization requirement for Georgia 11th graders this year

GEORGIA — New this year, starting on July 1, Georgia public school students must receive a booster dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine before entering 11th grade.

It’s the vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say protects against meningococcal disease, an illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Those illnesses that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (septicemia), can be severe and deadly.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Channel 2′s complete guide for back to school 2021 in north Georgia]

“This vaccine helps protect from four different types of the bacteria. People who get this bacteria, they can have some serious outcomes,” Glynn County Health Department county nurse manager Adam Sanchez said.

Sanchez said meningitis spreads through droplets from actions like sneezing or coughing.

“10 to 15 people out of 100 who are infected can die from it. Of the people who survive it, 10 to 20 of them can have severe outcomes like hearing loss, kidney damage, loss of limbs, and some other serious conditions,” Sanchez said.

[RELATED: What immunizations your child needs and when in Georgia for back to school]

Some people admit they were only getting vaccinated because of the requirement.

Action News Jax asked a couple of people what they were doing at the Glynn County Health Department on Monday.

“The meningococcal meningitis vaccine, only because we have to have it to go into school for August,” Curtiesha Holmes said.

Personal ties contributed to the decision for rising 11th grader Shane Jackson.

“I mean, it’s not a problem to me. My brother, he got sick when he was younger and now he can’t hear because of meningitis,” Jackson said.

BACK 2 SCHOOL

In a letter sent out from Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner and State Health Officer Kathleen Toomey, she said if your child doesn’t have health insurance, you can contact your local health department for a vaccine for little to no cost.

Health officials remind people the shot itself isn’t new.

“This is a pretty safe and effective vaccine. It’s been around for a while. It’s not under an emergency use order,” Sanchez said.

[RELATED: Breakdown of CDC guidelines for return to in-person learning]

Sanchez encourages parents and their kids to get the booster as soon as they can before appointments fill up.

“This booster shot is available at pretty much any health department and most pediatrician offices,” Sanchez said.

The requirement was supposed to be mandated last year, but was pushed back due to the pandemic.

The only exception for Georgia eleventh grade students is if the student received their first dose on or after their sixteenth birthday.

For more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about meningitis and the vaccine, click here.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]