Babies and toddlers aren’t the only ones who need immunizations. Parents should be aware that their pre-teens and college freshmen also need to be vaccinated, says a state health official.
“College freshmen who live in dorms and unvaccinated kids entering high school are at high risk for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “And 11 and 12-year-olds need a booster shot for pertussis.”
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection resulting in inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash. Ten to 14 percent of people with the disease die and up to 19 percent of survivors may suffer permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, limb amputations or brain disease. South Dakota typically reports three cases of meningococcal disease a year. To date in 2013, four cases have been reported.
Meningococcal vaccine is available from family health care providers and campus student health centers. The department provides the vaccine for 11 to 18-year-olds who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program (Medicaid eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured). The vaccine is free for these children but providers may charge an administration fee.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a serious illness that causes uncontrollable coughing, rib fractures, pneumonia, loss of consciousness and even death. Infants are at highest risk, with two-thirds of those under age 1 infected needing hospitalization. There have been 11 pertussis cases reported in South Dakota to date in 2013; three of those cases have been younger than 1.
A pertussis vaccine booster dose is recommended at 11-12 years when immunity begins to wane. The initial pertussis series is given to children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.
The department provides the childhood series of whooping cough vaccine and the booster dose free for 11-14 year olds. Providers may charge an administration fee.