Q & A about school immunizations

Q & A about school immunizations Editor's note: Each fall the Department of Health receives questions from parents about what vaccinations their kindergarten students need for school entry and whether their college students should be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis. The following fact sheet answers commonly asked questions about these issues. August is "National Immunization Awareness Month. This year's campaign theme, "Are You Up to Date? Vaccinate!" reminds people of all ages of the importance of immunization.

What immunizations are required for school entry in South Dakota?

South Dakota law (SDCL 13-28-7.1) requires students entering school or early childhood programs to present certification that have been adequately immunized, according to the recommendations of the Department of Health. The law applies to all children entering school for the first time, including transfer students. Minimum immunization requirements are defined as:


* four doses of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine (DTaP or DTP)


* three doses of poliovirus vaccine


* two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)


* one dose of chicken pox vaccine.

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord that is caused by infection with bacteria. Bacterial meningitis is a serious disease that can result in disability or death if not treated promptly. Symptoms can include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash.

Are college students at greater risk for bacterial meningitis?

Studies by the CDC have found college freshmen who live in dormitories to be at "slightly higher risk" for bacterial meningitis than other individuals their age. The studies found no increased risk for college students at other grade levels.

Is there a vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis?

A single dose of meningitis vaccine, "Menomune" protects against four of the five serogroups of the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Vaccination is effective against serogroups A, C, Y and W135 but offers no protection against group B. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serogroups C and Y caused about 70 percent of cases among college students. The immunization is effective for three to five years.

Is the vaccine recommended for all college students?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that college freshmen living in dormitories consider receiving the vaccination. Other college students wishing to reduce their risk of bacterial meningitis can also choose to be vaccinated.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Check with your family health care provider or student health center to receive the vaccine. If not in stock, the vaccine is readily available from the manufacturer. The vaccine is not available through the Department of Health's community health nursing offices and is not paid for by the state.

Is South Dakota seeing a problem with bacterial meningitis in this age group?

Since 1993, South Dakota has had three cases of bacterial meningitis associated with college students, one in 1993, one in 1997, and one in 2001. South Dakota reported two cases of meningococcal infection in 2002; neither were college students. To date in 2003, South Dakota has reported one case of meningococcal disease; also not a college student.

Where can I find out more about bacterial meningitis and the vaccine?

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/index.htm South Dakota Department of Health – www.state.sd.us/doh/Pubs/meningo.htm. Questions can also be directed to the Department of Health's Immunization Program at 773-3737.

Where can I learn more about South Dakota's school entry immunization requirements?

Call the department's Immunization Program at 773-3737 or visit the Web at http://www.state.sd.us/doh/Immunize/school.htm.

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