Incoming students required to get meningitis vaccine

Jillian Bliss

 A state law will require students new to the 40 Acres this spring to have received meningitis vaccines before the start of the semester.

The law, passed in May, requires all students entering an institution of higher education from 2012 on to be vaccinated for meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis, within at least five years before entering the institution. First-year college students, students transferring to a new university and those returning from a semester abroad or other leave are required to present evidence of their vaccination before the first class day of the semester in which they plan to enroll. The law exempts students returning for concurrent semesters, students age 30 or older and students only enrolled in distance education courses.

According to an informational pamphlet distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chances of contracting meningitis are more prevalent in crowded spaces, such as college dormitories. The disease is transmitted through human contact. It infects the meninges, the protective covering of the brain and spinal chord, and can also cause blood infections. Meningitis can be prevented with the vaccine or treated with antibiotics, but the CDC pamphlet states 10 to 15 percent of those infected will die and another 11 to 19 percent will endure limb loss, nervous system defects, deafness, slowed brain functions, seizures or strokes.

“Meningitis is dangerous because it progresses very rapidly,” said Sherry Bell, University Health Services consumer education and outreach coordinator. “An individual can be well one day and very ill or dead the next.”

UT administrative officials have formed an implementation team to ensure that new and returning students targeted by the law are vaccinated and file documentation with the University, registrar and vice provost Shelby Stanfield said. Stanfield said the team is composed of staff from the offices of the registrar, admissions, legal affairs and University Health Services.

“A student has to be in compliance with the law before they can enroll,” Stanfield said. “The student, once admitted, will be barred from registration unless their vaccine records are submitted. They cannot attend classes until the bar is lifted.”

The meningitis vaccine is available by appointment with UHS, at private doctors offices and minor emergency clinics.

Brent Burkhardt, CVS Minute Clinic spokesman, said the nationwide pharmacy has increased supply of the vaccine in anticipation of the recent mandate. Customers seeking influenza vaccines sometimes find it easy to receive both immunizations at once, Burkhardt said.

“We saw a lot of students in need of the vaccine come in over the Thanksgiving break,” Burkhardt said. “We do expect locations to get more busy, as we have a lot of locations close to college campuses.”

Printed on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 as: Entering students required to receive meningitis vaccine