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Karen Sharpnack


The meningitis booster and vaccinations, in general, have plagued the content that is covered by our local news outlets and social media feeds. Did you know there are between 2,000 and 3,000 diagnosed cases of meningitis each year? Did you know that one in 10 people infected with meningitis will die, while one in five survivors will suffer long-term disability, such as loss of limbs, brain damage, deafness and nervous system problems? Teenagers are at an increased risk of contracting meningitis due to their close contact with each other; including sharing drinks kissing, and living in close quarters. Thankfully there is a meningococcal vaccine that can help protect our children from meningitis so they can finish high school and prepare to enter a new chapter in their lives.

The vast majority of Idaho parents choose to vaccinate their children against meningitis by having their children get the first dose of meningococcal vaccine prior to entering seventh grade. However, many of these same parents do not know that a second dose of this vaccine is also recommended when their teen turns 16 years old. This second dose is necessary to fully protect Idaho teens from the potentially devastating effects of meningitis.

Parents are not being forced into getting the meningitis vaccine or any other vaccines for that matter. Idahoans are strongly in support of parental choice, and laws have been enacted to ensure parental rights come first. Idaho parents have some of the easiest opt-out laws in the nation. Parents can sign any blank sheet of paper stating they do not want their child to get an immunization — no questions asked.

Let’s work to ensure the experts like pediatricians, pharmacists and family doctors can answer the questions parents have whether it be about this booster or others. Let’s continue to explore parental rights while seeking to get a better understanding about the options parents can choose from. Idaho parents want what is best for their child, there is no disputing that. So let’s work together to ensure we are basing our decisions on good solid facts and not the scare tactics of a few.

Let’s hope that we do not have to encounter devastating and potentially deadly diseases in Idaho, like meningitis. While our supporters are constantly working hard to stop the spread of disease, it is equally important that we spread the facts about the meningitis booster and all vaccinations.

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Karen Sharpnack is the executive director of the Idaho Immunization Coalition.


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