Students who have not gotten a required meningicoccal inoculation will be allowed to attend school as military health clinics deal with a shortage of the vaccine, Department of Defense school officials say.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe added the vaccine to required inoculations for students. Also added were tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine (TDAP–adolescent preparation) and the Hepatitis A vaccine, according to a DODDS-E news release.

“Military medical clinics in Europe have indicated they are in short supply of one of the three required vaccines, listed as MCV4 Meningococcal (Menactra),” the release stated.

Jeri Chappelle, the medical command’s public affairs officer, said her office is checking on the availability of vaccines.

“Army clinics ordered supplies of vaccines so that all children could be immunized to meet DODDS and the Centers for Disease Control requirements,” she wrote in an e-mail response. “Parents whose children need additional vaccines should check with their local health clinics to see if they are available.”

There is no timetable for all clinics to receive the vaccine, she said.

In the meantime, students have been granted a grace period to ensure that all DODDS students age 11 and up can complete the vaccination, the release stated. “Children will be given extensions to meet the requirement, and will attend school until the vaccine is available through their community medical facility.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demand for MCV4 is exceeding supply. As a result, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending that students entering high school and college freshmen living in dormitories should receive the vaccine, while children 11-12 years of age should be deferred until more vaccine is available.

DODDS is working with the Europe Regional Medical Command to find out which communities are affected by the meningitis vaccine shortage and how many students still need the shots, according to David Ruderman, DODDS-Europe deputy public affairs officer.

“When the vaccine is available, the schools will be alerted by ERMC and the schools will alert parents,” Ruderman said.

“I think most parents, given the anxiety that lingers around this subject, would want their children inoculated as soon as possible. I don’t think compliance is going to be a difficulty.”

Vaccinations are age-specific, he added.

“Not every child needs to take every shot,” he said. “We do not track specific numbers on students who need the immunizations, however our staff in the field coordinate their needs and numbers with the military treatment facilities in their communities and the lines of communication are open so that children who need shots will get them when the medication is available at their military treatment facility.”

Four members of the U.S. military community in Germany died last winter from meningitis, an infectious disease that causes inflammation of the tissues around the brain and spinal cord.

Vaccination timetable

The childhood vaccination schedule at a glance:

Birth: Hepatitis B for high risk infants

2 months: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hep. b, h influenza b, strep. pneumonia, rotavirus

4 months: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hep. b, h influenza b, strep. pneumonia, rotavirus

6 months: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hep. b, strep. pneumonia, rotavirus

12 months: Measles, mumps, rubella, h influenza b, hep. a, pneumonia, tb and lead survey, varicella

18 months: Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hep. A

4-6 years: Varicella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, TB survey

11-12 years: Meningococcal, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, TB survey, Quad. HPV

Source: Europe Regional Medical Command.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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