Protecting Ohio's Students
A Guest Column by Senator Scott Oelslager
August 24, 2015
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Throughout this General Assembly, it has been my privilege to help move forward policies that help make Ohio a better place to live, work and raise a family. As families prepare for the new school year, we are reminded of the importance of health and well-being for our students. Senate Bill 121, which I recently co-sponsored, focuses on implementing healthy habits and protecting our community’s health. 

This legislation highlights the importance of the meningococcal vaccine for young people. A debilitating and potentially fatal disease, bacterial meningitis is a rare illness caused by bacteria moving quickly through the body. Infections that spread to the spinal cord, can cause brain damage, which may prove deadly. Symptoms include the quick onset of a high fever, rash, vomiting and severe headache.

Meningococcal disease is highly contagious, however infants, children, and teens are the most at-risk for infection. Thankfully, the meningitis vaccine renders the disease preventable. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health recommend that parents consult with their child's physician to determine the best vaccine schedule.

Senate Bill 121 will require school students to be immunized against meningococcal disease at an age recommended by the Ohio Department of Health. The language does allow for exceptions from the immunization requirement if the parent or guardian has a written statement related to reasons of personal or religious objection. Also, if a student’s physician certifies that the immunization would be dangerous to an individual’s health, they would be exempt from getting the vaccination requirements. Although passed this summer, the legislation will not become effective until October 2015 and will impact the 2016-2017 school year. However, there is no better time than the present to learn more about protecting your family from dangerous diseases like bacterial meningitis.  

The bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) was inspired to introduce this legislation after his young niece died of bacterial meningitis.

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Please do not hesitate to contact me by calling (614) 466-0626, emailing, or by writing me at 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

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