New Meningococcal School Requirements

In 2005 the FDA licensed the first meningococcal conjugate vaccine protecting against meningococcal strains A, C, W, and Y. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made a routine recommendation for all adolescents to receive a dose of the new vaccine at 11-12 years of age that same year. In 2010 the ACIP added a booster dose of MenACWY vaccine at 16 years of age to the routine recommendation for all adolescents to ensure adequate protection against meningococcal disease. Massachusetts has achieved high immunization rates with the first dose of MenACWY vaccine (over 90%) but rates for the booster dose both nationally and here in MA lag significantly (less than 55%).

Immunization requirements for school entry for the 2019-2020 school year will remain the same. However, we want to make you aware that at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, school nurses will need to obtain an immunization record for the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for students entering the 7th and 11th grade, unless a religious or medical exemption applies. The immunization record will need to demonstrate:

·    7th grade entry: 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) for all students.

·    11th grade entry: 1 booster dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Men ACWY) received on or after 16 years of age.  (One or more doses of MenACWY vaccine are acceptable as long as one dose was received on or after 16 years of age.)

We recognize that this is the first time there will a reporting requirement for high school and that new processes for obtaining updated immunization records for students entering 11th grade will need to be implemented. However, meningococcal disease incidence peaks among young people 16-21 years of age. Implementation of a required booster dose of MenACWY vaccine for entry to 11th grade ensures that everyone is protected before entering the high-risk time period. While Massachusetts college entrance immunization requirements include MenACWY vaccine, young adults who do not attend college are also at increased risk for meningococcal disease. An 11th grade requirement aims to protect everyone in this at-risk age group. We will provide additional information and updates to support schools and school nurses in this endeavor over the coming year.

If you have any questions about these new school requirements, please contact the Immunization Division Assessment Unit at 617-983-4330.