North Carolina’s Commission for Public Health recently approved a mandate for incoming seventh graders to be vaccinated against meningitis – an infection of the brain or spinal cord – and other meningococcal diseases beginning July 2015. The mandate also includes an additional booster for incoming high school seniors beginning July 2020.
Barring lack of approval by the state’s Rules Review Commission later this month, the new policies will align North Carolina’s policy with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Meningococcal disease is caused by a certain type of bacteria that infects the brain, spinal cord, bloodstream or lungs. Although it’s considered rare – affecting about 3,000 people nationwide every year – it is potentially fatal and extremely expensive to treat.
According to information published by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 10 to 15 percent of those who contract a meningococcal disease die from it. Twenty percent of survivors suffer debilitating long-term effects, including brain damage.
Meningococcal diseases that would be prevented by the vaccine tend to be more prevalent in the adolescent population, but only about half of North Carolina’s teens are vaccinated against them.
The following physicians in East Carolina University’s Department of Pediatrics are experts on adolescent health issues and the importance of immunizations for this population: Dr. Roytesa Savage, director of ECU’s Pediatric Outpatient Center and associate professor of pediatrics; Dr. David Holder, clinical associate professor for pediatrics; and Dr. Sharon Mangan, clinical associate professor of pediatrics.
In addition, the following ECU physicians serve on the North Carolina Immunization Advisory Committee: Dr. Karin Hillenbrand, associate professor for pediatrics and director of ECU’s pediatric residency program; and Dr. Kristina Simeonsson, associate professor for pediatrics and public health.