By BELINDA STIVERS
Your Voice Contributor
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just issued their latest national vaccination rates for adolescents, and Kentucky parents should take note. As of last year, only 55 percent of adolescents in Kentucky have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, which includes meningitis.
Meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal disease, and may be prevented through vaccination. Public health officials recommend meningococcal vaccination for adolescents starting at age 11 or 12, with a booster dose by 18 years of age to help protect teens during the years they’re at greatest risk of infection. Kentucky’s vaccination rates have improved from last year; however, this recent report shows that they still fall short of public health goals, and this means that too many teens remain vulnerable to meningitis.
I joined the Voices of Meningitis campaign to educate parents about the importance of vaccination so that we can help prevent this disease from striking Louisville-area families. We’ve been spreading the word within communities that vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent meningitis and keep them protected during the years they’re at greatest risk.
Our message to parents is simple: meningitis may be rare, but it can take a child’s life in just one day, and the most effective way to help protect your preteens and teens from the disease is by getting them vaccinated – today.
In fact, vaccination is especially important this time of year because common activities that go hand-in-hand with adolescents who attend summer camp and school, such as sharing utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters and even kissing, increase a child’s risk of contracting meningitis – a risk that may be minimized if the child is vaccinated.
Regarding cost of vaccination, most private health insurance carriers cover meningococcal vaccination, and for eligible families who don’t have insurance, the vaccine is available for free or at low cost through the federal Vaccines for Children program. Ask your child’s school nurse, health care provider or local public health department for more information.
Vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent meningitis. I am committed to educating about the importance of immunization to help boost our rates, and my fellow school nurses across the country are doing the same.
For more information on meningitis and vaccination, visit www.VoicesOfMeningitis.org or join the conversation on Facebook.
Belinda Stivers, RN, MSN is a registered nurse in the Kentucky School Nurses Association (KSNA) in Louisville.