Public high school students over 16 years old must receive one booster dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine before returning to school this fall, announced the Georgia Department of Public Health Friday.

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness that affects the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis can cause shock, coma and death within hours of the first symptoms.

If any teen has not been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, the GDPH strongly recommends getting rising eleventh-grade students, aged 16 years or older, vaccinated before they start the 2021-2022 school year.

Getting the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, also known as the MCV4 vaccine, will not only help protect a child against the ongoing threat of meningitis, it will also meet the new school entry requirement.

Parents and guardians can also ask their pediatrician or local health department about other shots their child may need
including the following:

• the human papillomavirus (HPV) series

• the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis shot (Tdap or Td booster)

• an annual flu vaccine; and

• catch-up immunizations, including chickenpox, measles-mumps-rubella and hepatitis B.

If a family does not have health insurance or their health plan will not cover these vaccines, they can call the local health department and ask about options for no-cost or low-cost vaccines. For more information, visit the State Department of Public Health’s website or call (800) 848-3868.