Texas to require meningitis vaccine
New students under the age of 30 who plan to enroll in college classes are required by law to be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis starting this month.
This law also affects students under the age of 30 who are returning to college after a break in their enrollment of at least one semester.
“Approximately 3,000 students will need to meet the requirement to enroll in spring 2012,” said Stephen Soutullo, associate vice president for Student Access/Student Success at UH. “This number includes new students and returning students who were not enrolled in Fall 2011.”
Soutullo said approximately 90 percent of those students submitted paperwork prior to the first day of classes and meet the requirement for enrollment in this spring. Some of the remaining students are still submitting the required paperwork.
This law came into effect after Nicolis Williams, a Texas A&M junior from Sugar Land died in February 2011 after contracting bacterial meningitis.
The parents of students who died from the disease fought for the bill to become law requiring college students to be vaccinated.
“In the case where we had the college deaths, the parents were vocal,” UH Health Center Director Floyd Robinson said. “I think certainly they wanted to spare parents having to go through this horrible experience of losing a child.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, bacterial meningitis is a contagious disease that causes inflammation of the out-lining membranes of the brain.
The infection can be spread by sharing food and drinks, kissing, coughing and sneezing.
The close proximity college students are in on campus and in dorms makes them highly susceptible to catching and spreading this infectious disease, Robinson said.
UH is tracking compliance status as student records, Soutullo said.
Students are responsible for submitting the necessary documentation to the University. Either provide official proof of vaccination or the required paperwork for a medical or conscience exemption, he added.
Although UH has not seen a confirmed case in recent years, Robinson says the UH Health Center stays on top of any reports of suspected cases that are called into the office.
“We always respond in person to that kind of call because we want to relay any fears. We want to talk about symptoms,” he said. “We want to talk about what to do, what not to do.”
The UH Health Center is offering the vaccine for all students enrolled in classes.
The cost for the vaccination is $136.
Some insurance plans may cover the vaccination, but Robinson said there are many insurance plans that do not.