Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D., is urging parents to talk with their child’s doctor about the new school-entrance vaccination requirements, which include meningococcal conjugate vaccination (MCV). In observance of National Infant Immunization Week, April 18-23, IDPH plans to raise awareness of the value of timely vaccinations for infants, as well as for residents across the lifespan.


Beginning next school year, all students entering the sixth and twelfth grades will be required to show proof of recent MCV in order to prevent all students from acquiring this potentially fatal disease. Although disease incidence is at historic lows, the overall case-fatality rate remains between 10 to 15 percent, with between 11 to 19 percent of survivors experiencing long-term sequelae such as neurologic disability, limb or digit loss, and hearing loss.

“Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. In order to continue seeing declining rates of infection, we must maintain and improve existing prevention efforts,” said Director Shah. “Between 2005-2011, there were around 1000 cases nationally. We can and will do better by tightening reporting requirements around vaccines for school-aged adolescents.”

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection. It occurs commonly in two forms: inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meningococcal meningitis) or a severe blood infection (meningococcemia). Transmission from person to person occurs through direct contact with nose and throat secretions. An infected person can transmit the disease by coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, kissing a person on the mouth, or sharing a glass or cup.

Illinois is implementing these new MCV requirements to help prevent illness and outbreaks due to vaccine-preventable diseases. Currently, approximately 79% of Illinois teens 13-17 years of age have been vaccinated with at least 1-dose of meningococcal vaccine.

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Beginning Fall 2015, all sixth graders will be required to show proof of one dose of MCV and all twelfth graders will need to show proof of receiving two doses, unless the first dose was administered after 16 years of age. In this case, only one dose after 16 years of age is required.

Other vaccines required for school entrance include diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza type b, hepatitis b, varicella and pneumococcal (depending on age) vaccinations.