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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Vaccines inject students with fees

Students mingle with each other daily and in doing so they increase their own exposure to disease, especially if they live on campus. Paradoxically, most healthy people in their twenties are less likely to become ill when compared to children or elderly.

The former point is why students risk contracting bacterial meningitis more than others. A 20-year-old student at Texas A&M, who lived off campus died from the disease earlier this month and created a harsh reminder of the fact.

According to the Center for Disease Control, meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is a serious but rare disease transmitted by coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils and drinks, etc.

Now the father of that A&M student wants Texas lawmakers to mandate that all students get the Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine, regardless of where they live.

Currently, the Jamie Schanbaum Act, named after a student who contracted the disease in 2008, states that students who live on campus — mostly incoming freshmen — must get the vaccine. Governor Rick Perry signed the act into law Jan. 1, 2010.

Several other states have similar laws, but it’s a weak mandate. Students can opt out of the vaccine by a doctor’s signed affidavit, or a form stating ethic or religious beliefs.

This is why the topic is especially relevant to me. In the 2010 fall semester, I moved on campus for the first time and the law required I get the vaccine even though I was not a freshman. I filled out an exemption form for reasons of conscience and after a lot of red tape, I was exempt from vaccination.

Parents and students find this irresponsible. There is an increased risk among students for contracting the illness, and prevention is better than cure.

However there are several reasons not to get vaccinated.

Financially — without insurance — a visit to the UH clinic is $20 and another $125 for the Meningococcal vaccine (plus $10 for an “administration fee”). Not all students have rich parents with money and insurance, nor do all students have a job to cover expenses; in a time when tuition and campus costs will only increase, every penny counts.

No vaccine is without side effects as well. The CDC reports rash, fever, inflammation, and sometimes death from the vaccine, rare but possible. Then again, meningitis itself is rare but possible.

Only three thousand people in the U.S. contract meningitis annually; ten percent die. Twenty percent suffer hearing loss, amputated limbs, or brain damage. These figures amount to a few hundred people a year dead or permanently affected. More people die annually from traffic accidents in Texas alone.

I risk contracting meningitis since I‘m not vaccinated. Students take plenty of risks though. Students risk an accident when in traffic. Students risk food poisoning at fast food restaurants. Students risk endless health problems when they binge drink. Students risk getting mugged when walking on campus at night. Why should choosing not to vaccinate be any different?

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