Study: More Pre-Teens Get Vaccines When Middle Schools
MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Pre-teens living in states
that require vaccinations for incoming middle school students are
more likely to be immunized than those in states without such
requirements, a new study finds.
Current vaccine guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention recommend that boys and girls aged 11 to 12
receive three immunizations or boosters:
tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (TdaP); meningococcal conjugate; and
three doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
In 2008-2009, 32 states required TdaP and three required
meningococcal conjugate. One state, Virginia, required HPV
vaccination for girls during those years.
About 80 percent of kids aged 13 to 17 received the recommended
TdaP vaccine in states that required vaccination for middle school
entry compared to 70 percent of kids in states that didn't require
it. For meningococcal vaccine, those rates were 71 percent versus
53 percent. Researchers did not report HPV vaccination rates in
Virginia versus elsewhere.
"State requirement for vaccines for middle school entry does have a positive influence on vaccination coverage. Adolescents in their states are more likely to have received these vaccines," said study co-author Shannon Stokley, a CDC epidemiologist.
The study was released online May 7 and is to be published in
the June print issue of
School vaccination requirements stretch all the way back to
1855, when Massachusetts became the first state to require smallpox
vaccine for school entry, according to background information in
the article. Over the decades the number of vaccines required
expanded, the majority of which need to be received before entering
More recently, many states have mandated that pre-teens have
certain vaccines for entering middle school.
"Vaccines are vital to the health of the adolescent. They are very, very important, and we've seen from the state-by-state variations that when you place requirements for vaccinations on school entry you increase the rate that parents will seek vaccinations," said Dr. Carrie Byington, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Yet, even state mandates don't mean every child will be
vaccinated. Every state allows a medical exemption for children,
and 48 states plus the District of Columbia also allow either
religious or philosophical exemptions, while some allow exemptions
for both reasons, Stokley said.
Only West Virginia and Mississippi do not allow non-medical
exemptions, she added.
Instead of mandates, many states require that schools or public
health departments inform parents about the diseases the vaccines
protect against and the current vaccine recommendations. However,
the study found states that offered education had no better vaccine
rates than those that didn't.
That doesn't mean education doesn't matter, Stokley said.
And though vaccine mandates appear to work, "state requirements
are just one strategy to increase immunization," Byington
Other strategies that can boost vaccination rates include
ensuring that kids have access to vaccines and making sure that
pediatricians advise parents about the shots, she said. Research
has shown that parents trust pediatricians regarding vaccines and
are more likely to get their kids vaccinated if the pediatrician
For middle schoolers, the vaccines protect against several
serious, and even deadly, diseases, including diphtheria, a highly
contagious bacterial disease that effects the respiratory system
and can lead to swelling of the heart muscle tissue, heart failure
and death; tetanus, a bacteria found in the soil that can enter the
body through a deep cut and lead to months of serious, painful
muscle spasms and lockjaw; and pertussis, or whooping cough.
In 2010, California saw the worst outbreak of whooping cough in
50 years, leading to more than 27,000 people sickened and the
deaths of 10 infants. The outbreak led to urgent calls for parents
to keep their children's pertussis vaccines up to date.
Meningococcal disease is a leading cause of bacterial
meningitis, an infection around the brain and the spinal cord that
kills about one in 10 people who contract it, according to the CDC.
"Meningitis is a very serious disease. A person can seem fine, and
within hours all of a sudden they can be very ill and potentially
die," Stokley said.
Human papillomavirus is a common virus among people in their
teens and early 20s and is spread during sex, potentially causing
genital warts in men and women. Certain strains cause cervical
cancer in women and also anal cancer, Stokley said.
Check out the recommended vaccine schedule for kids and adults
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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