On Sept. 1, changes to Minnesota's immunization law take effect that require students to receive certain vaccinations or submit documentation of a legal exemption. Among the changes, seventh graders will now need to receive the meningococcal and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines. Health officials expect that the requirement will help boost rates for those vaccines.
According to Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases for the Minnesota Department of Health, "Meningococcal and Tdap vaccines have been recommended for 11-12 year olds for a while, but vaccination rates have not been as high as we'd like," Ehresmann said. "The new requirement will help us make sure adolescents are protected from these diseases. We've already seen the rates increase as students get ready for the upcoming school year, but we have a long way to go."
The MDH Immunization Program is working to educate parents on the importance of these adolescent vaccines through a new website http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/adol/index.html, social media messages, awareness campaigns, and outreach at the Minnesota State Fair. Ehresmann noted that these efforts are also letting parents know about other vaccines recommended for adolescents, such as influenza and the HPV vaccine, which protects against certain types of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus.
For parents who are concerned about the cost of immunizations, the Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program provides free or low cost shots for eligible children through 18 years of age: www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/mnvfc/basics.html.
School immunization data for counties, districts and schools is available on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/stats/school/index.html.