Meningitis Shot Required to Start 7th Grade

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  All 7th and 12th graders are required to get a meningitis shot before the fall 2017 school year starts.

Iowa is among 30 states to require the meningococcal vaccine. Meningitis is a respiratory disease that is spread through close contact, and this shot will help prevent the spread.

"When we’re vaccinating our students early, we have a better chance of protecting your community," said Nola Aigner with Polk County.

Over the past 10 years, Iowa has seen 50 meningitis-related cases.

"Those individuals that do contract meningitis, about 10 to 15 percent of those individuals will die," said Dan Callaghan of the Iowa Department of Public Health. He also said the people who survive often face long-term, life-altering changes like "limb loss or hearing loss."

Some parents say the new requirements could save more lives.

“I feel like it’s important, it will save their life, why wouldn't they want to get it if it could prevent them from dying?" said Des Moines resident Holly Chiles.

Under the law, there is recourse for parents who don't want to vaccinate their children.

“Religious exemptions have to be a true religious belief, and it must be notarized and presented to the child's school," Callaghan said.

The other option is a medical exemption that must be signed off by the child's doctor.

Public health officials say this shot is covered by most insurances and there are free programs to help families get their kids vaccinated before school.