For the first time this school year, Ohio students will be required to receive the vaccine for bacterial meningitis.
This spring Ohio lawmakers added the vaccine to the list of required immunizations for students enter the seventh and 12th grade.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spine that can lead to blindness, loss of limbs or even death.
Mother Frankie Milley told newsnet5.com that her son, Ryan Milley, started displaying flu-like meningitis symptoms just 14 hours before his death in 1998.
Ryan Milley was 18 years old and Frankie Milley said her family has made it their life-long mission to push for required meningococcal immunizations at schools across the country.
She was part of the effort in Ohio that led to the new law last spring.
“It’s just one more step that’s wonderful and to think how many lives will be saved because of this new law in Ohio.”
Dr. Lolita McDavid, Medical Director of Child Advocacy and Protection at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, said Ryan Milley’s rapidly escalating case is typical of meningitis.
“I have taken care of children and adults with meningitis and it’s no joke,” said Dr. McDavid, who supports the move towards required immunizations.
But it’s important to note that a provision in the law allows parents who object to vaccines to opt out.
Dr. McDavid said some of her patients who initially object to vaccines change their mind after learning about how contagious it can be.
“When kids are in dorms, or when kids do sports and they’re close contact and they share things, its very easy to get it,” Dr. McDavid said, explaining that it’s often contracted through saliva.
She said she’s worried that many patients won’t know about the new requirement.
There is a 14-day grace period at the beginning of the school period to allow students to get the vaccine if they have not.