Parental fears aside, some experts stress the importance of vaccination throughout childhood. The tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine doesn't confer a lifetime of immunity, and the risk of meningitis also peaks at different ages.
"Meningitis is most likely in the elementary school years, in middle school, and the first couple of years in college," said Dr. Eugene Hershorin, professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. He was not involved in the CDC study. "We want to protect them during those years."
Because of susceptibility after vaccines wear off and the potential dangers of spreading diseases like pertussis, Stokley and Hershorin are in favor of mandatory vaccination.
"Children are susceptible to acquiring infections," said Stokley. "These diseases are still out there. Pertussis is still circulating."
"Part of the theory behind immunization is 'herd immunity,'" Hershorin said. "If everyone in the world is protected except one person, that person can't get the disease because there's no one to give it to them. By immunizing the majority of kids in a confined environment like a middle school, they can be protected."
Adolescents get immunized far less frequently than infants and younger school children, despite the recommendations.
"One issue is that with the infant vaccine schedule, infants are routinely going in for checkups with their providers, and there are many more opportunities for shots," Stokley explained. "For adolescents, they're making few preventive visits, and they may not be coming in every year for a checkup. Parents may not be aware these vaccines are available."