Northwest Iowa — Northwest Iowa parents would be required to have their children vaccinated against meningitis under a measure that is included in a budget bill awaiting Governor Terry Branstad’s review.
Bacterial meningitis is serious and can be deadly. It causes tissue surrounding the brain and the spinal cord to swell. Representative Rob Taylor of West Des Moines is all too familiar with it.
Iowa is one of 11 states that do not require teenagers to be vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends kids get the meningitis vaccine by the age of 12 and then get a booster shot when they’re 16.
If Governor Branstad signs off on the proposal, 7th graders and 12th graders will have to show they’ve gotten the meningitis vaccine, or they won’t be able to enroll in school. Meningitis is highly contagious, according to Taylor. “And very devastating to the community that gets it because if there’s one that has, it can spread rapidly,” Taylor says. About four-thousand cases of meningitis are reported in the U.S. each year. At the end of March a student at St. Ambrose University was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Nearly 80 percent of American teenagers get a first dose of the meningitis vaccine. In Iowa, only 64 percent get it. That’s 11-and-a-half percent lower than Minnesota and about 13 percent lower than Illinois. South Dakota’s governor just signed a bill requiring 7th and 12th graders to show they’ve been vaccinated before they may enroll in school.