Iowa students need meningitis vaccine to start seventh grade

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Some Iowa students will need an extra vaccine before they are allowed to start school this year.

Iowa law now requires all incoming seventh grade students be vaccinated for meningitis. Students entering twelfth grade are required to have two doses of the vaccine.

"It's important that parents get this done. In the past, the law has said, 'Well, your student can start school, and they can be there for one semester.' This law is totally different. They are not allowed to start seventh grade without this vaccine," said Roma Taylor, clinical services coordinator for the Scott County Health Department.

Meningitis is a potentially deadly illness that spreads through respiratory drops, or saliva.

"We know that someone that's diagnosed with or has symptoms of meningitis can go from happy-go-lucky to dead within 24 to 48 hours," said Taylor.

Rough estimates suggest many Iowa students may still need the shot. Health officials say last month, around 2,000 students still needed the vaccine in Scott County. About 40 percent of students  in Polk County still need the vaccine, as well.

"I would suggest that they start calling their physicians' offices right now," said Taylor.

The Scott County Health Department is hosting two extra immunization clinics for students who qualify for the Vaccines for Children program on August 17 and August 24.

Most students, though, will need to see their primary care doctor.

Parents can file for a religious or medical exemption to the vaccine requirement.