High-school students: Get the meningococcal vaccine!
3/5/2020 by Robert M. Jacobson, MD
Before school starts in the fall, Minnesota school rules call for all senior high school students to receive two doses of the meningococcal ACWY (Menactra®, Menveo®) vaccine. This vaccine prevents sudden death and loss of limb from a rapid-onset bacterial infection caused by meningococcus. Teens ages 11 through 20 are at increased risk. One dose of the vaccine is due when students are 11 to 12 years old; the second dose is due when they're 16. The vaccine dose lasts about five years.
If you've heard or been told that your teen should wait to get the second dose until they're closer to age 18, this is not correct and has never been a recommendation. The increased risk begins at 11 or 12 years of age and decreases after the first year out of high school.
Mayo Clinic recommends all its patients get these doses when they are due. Nurses and providers work hard to catch teens up at non-preventive care visits. Mayo Clinic also provides nurse-only visits to get any shots that are due. Mayo Clinic Express Care offers this vaccine, as well.
Parents can ask for their teens' vaccination records by calling their care team or through their teen's Patient Online Services portal. This is an exception to the privacy rules that restrict other access. The vaccines will appear in the portal as MCV4 (Menactra), MCV4 (Menveo) or MCV4 (Unspecified). If your teen got the vaccine elsewhere, the vaccine might show up as MenACWY.
Until this fall, Minnesota State Law didn't require schools to enforce the need for the 16-year-old dose. Schools won't admit seniors who haven't received the vaccine. Seniors will need to get the vaccine, or, if the parents refuse, turn in a conscientious-objection form.
This vaccine is different from the optional MenB vaccine that Mayo doesn't recommend routinely. We do make the MenB vaccine available for those 16 to 23 years of age who request it.
Both vaccines are well covered by commercial insurance, so there's no out-of-pocket expense, and provided free of charge through Minnesota Vaccines for Children.
Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM) and medical director of the Primary Care Immunization Program.