At the end of April, a Virginia boy died from meningitis after contracting the disease in an elementary school. The Centers for Disease Control announced Thursday that the final number of infected students was 19, while none of the infected staff members have been identified.
This year, with less than two weeks before the start of the school year, news of outbreaks in Pennsylvania and Virginia prompted questions from Washington parents about whether their children would be inoculated at public schools in Arlington, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Arlington: All staff members with family members who have autism are required to get the full CDC’s annual vaccine for meningitis by mid-August, and all of them are supposed to start the required meningitis vaccine in June and July. The county also requires health care providers and school staff with student patients to contact the county about vaccinations within two days after children are received them.
Costs for the vaccine vary greatly. State data show the $300 required by the CDC is covered by the Kaiser Permanente health plan for most people with autism. Kaiser declined to comment on whether it covers the cost of the full course of the second and fourth vaccinations in its plan.
The remaining expense of $183 per single shot is not covered by most insurance companies. Most insurance plans also require certain minimum doses that health care providers may only get through a separate plan. Only those with dual Medicaid/ACA plan are covered in the first seven days after receiving the required vaccine, and all health care providers must ensure they have $10,000 in emergency funds in case of complications from vaccines.
Still, health departments in three states — Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland — reported incidents of delayed or missing vaccinations, but official numbers released by the CDC do not indicate where those delays took place. The 19 cases reported by Virginia Health officials do not include those the state has recorded in schools and other health care institutions, including 13 infections in two health care providers, four in medical facilities and two in a veterinary clinic.
Montgomery County: The county health department conducted screenings at public schools in April to check for proper vaccination. The department reports it notified 189 families on time of the screenings. One person with a family member receiving an MMR vaccine from March 10 to April 12 may have missed the screening or may have been granted a waiver, which means they didn’t have to go to their school. Montgomery County’s schools are required to report which students they reported to for the vaccination.
State health officials say it is difficult to track down all of the most susceptible children because medical records for pediatricians aren’t kept online and school records are not accessible in computer databases.
In case of delays, health officials say that if an illness is high risk, it’s important to administer the vaccine when students first return. But parents shouldn’t take it personally, they say.
“You’re really hoping to prevent this, but this is an unfortunate situation,” said Abbie Glick, the deputy health commissioner in Montgomery County. “We can’t prevent parents from not vaccinating their children and still have a strong public health policy.”
Anne Arundel County: County health officials vaccinated nearly 150 staff members in April. Staff was all at-risk of needing vaccines in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, glick said.
“There will never be data available that shows we’ve prevented a measles outbreak,” Glick said.
Glick said the county doesn’t keep records of how long employees take before they have to make their own immunizations. Like many of the other school districts in Maryland, Maryland State Board of Education regulations offer a grace period of 15 days for school staff to get vaccinated. Montgomery County required staff who are at-risk to have their vaccines done no later than the following Monday.
Prince George’s County: Officials have vaccinated about half of their medically at-risk community members at school as of last week, spokeswoman Susanne Bonow said. Most of those vaccinated have had two doses of the mumps,