Missouri adds meningitis vaccination to list of school-required immunizations

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-25 18:35:26-04

For the first time in 10 years, Missouri is updating its vaccination requirements for all school children. This year, students entering eighth and 12th grades will need to have the meningococcal vaccine before school starts this fall.

"It can be deadly and we want to stop it before it starts," said Lauren Grimes, manager of nursing services for Kansas City Public Schools.

Meningococcal diseases cause meningitis, a highly contagious bacterial disease. It starts with flu-like symptoms, such as fever and fatigue, but can quickly escalate. It can be spread by saliva, spit and coughing.

Signs and symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increase sensitivity to light
  • Altered mental state

"You're sitting in class together, you're next to each other. A lot of times the kids are spending time outside of school together and so it's really easy and there are so many kids. It's really easy to spread," said Grimes.

Meningitis vaccines for children start at age 11 with a booster dose at age 16. Missouri students will now be required to have one dose of the vaccine before eighth grade and two doses of the vaccine before 12th grade, unless the first dose was administered when the student was 16 years old or older.

College students in Missouri are already required to get the vaccination. According to the CDC, teenagers and college students living in close quarters are high-risk groups for meningitis.

"We do a lot in the school to try and minimize the spread of everything, even the cold. Wiping things down, cleaning things off, but immunization is a good place to start for those things that are more serious," said Grimes.

Kansas does not require middle or high school students to get the vaccination.

In both states, parents can opt out of vaccines for religious or medical reasons.