As this story is printed, area school teachers, administrators and staff are on a countdown of less than a week before students file through the school doors.

They do so with a new medical-related mandate in place. As approved by the Iowa State Legislature, students must now receive meningitis vaccinations.

For older students (those age 10 and above), and their parents, if they haven’t done so already, they need to get to the doctor’s office in their community and get at least one dose of the meningitis immunization for this school year.

Mary Greeley Medical Center issued a release about the vaccine in late June and covered the requirements as per Story County Public Health. A change in the law, they explained, requires a one-time dose of meningococcal vaccine for those students born after Sept. 15, 2004. It requires two doses of the vaccine, with one dose received on or after 16 years of age, for students in grade 12, if born after Sept. 15, 1999; or one dose if received when students are 16 years or older.

Story County Public Health Nurse Sherry Zook, BSN, RN, explains why this vaccine is so important. “Meningococcal disease is a very serious, life-threatening illness. This vaccine protects against four strains, or ‘serogroups,’ of meningitis, and is 85 to 100 percent effective at preventing infection.”

Doctors and nurses at Story County Medical Clinic in Nevada said they had been administering the shot to many students this summer, getting it done for as many as possible when they have come in for wellness visits or sports physicals.

Nevada School Nurse Eileen Patterson said she believes the new vaccine is a good idea. “Meningitis is a terrible disease, and I’m all about prevention,” Patterson said. Over the summer, Patterson said she’s been keeping track of how Nevada’s students are doing when it comes to getting the vaccine when they’re getting their physicals. She said she was checking daily more recently before school starts hoping the notifications to parents were being read and acted upon.

“It is required day one,” Patterson said, adding that she has spoken to a few parents who needed some clarification about high school students and what they needed for the vaccination. She’s always happy to answer questions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10 to 15 percent of people with meningococcal disease die, even with appropriate treatment. Of those who recover, up to 20 percent have serious after-effects, including permanent hearing loss, limb loss or brain damage.

“This new school immunization requirement is important because the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are spread through upper respiratory droplets like saliva. Teens and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, and meningococcal vaccine is the best protection,” Zook said.