The state Legislature’s House Health and Welfare committee is recommending approval of a rule that adds a second meningococcal vaccine dose to the list of school-required vaccinations.
Parents and legal guardians still have the option of exempting their children from the required immunizations. Deputy State Epidemiologist Kathy Turner says the new Department of Health and Welfare rule will help remind families to make sure their children are fully immunized against the rare but often catastrophic disease.
Students who receive the meningococcal vaccine before the age of 16 have to receive two doses of the vaccine to be fully immunized. Students who get their first dose of the vaccine after turning 16, however, need only one dose.
The requirement goes into effect for 12th-grade students at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
The vaccine protects against meningococcal disease, a serious illness that spread through coughing, kissing or prolonged contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15 people out of 100 even with treatment, and many of those who survive will sustain hearing loss, brain damage, amputations or other medical disabilities.
The proposed rule change passed the committee 7-6.
Rep. John Green, a Republican from Post Falls, was among the “no” votes, saying he couldn’t imagine a circumstance where it would be appropriate for government to mandate a personal health choice. Rep. Bryan Zollinger, a Republican from Idaho Falls, also voted no after questioning whether the costs and risks of the vaccine would outweigh the benefits.
Rep. Jarom Wagoner, a Caldwell Republican and the vice chair of the committee, voted yes, saying the benefits of the vaccination greatly outweigh any negatives. Committee chairman Rep. Fred Wood, a retired doctor and Republican from Burley, also voted in favor of the rule. Wood noted that the advent of vaccinations led to some of the most significant lifespan increases in public health history.