The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Meningitis vaccine required for first-time students

By Joshua Knopp/managing editor

Students who are new to TCC this spring or returning after taking a break must be immunized against bacterial meningitis, according to a new state law.The law, Senate Bill 1107, goes into effect Jan. 1 and states that all students must be immunized against meningitis 10 days before enrolling in a college.TCC students will need to provide evidence of immunization to a registrar before they can register, meaning students may need to be immunized as soon as Nov. 15.

Meningitis, an infection of fluids in the spinal cord and around the brain, comes in two strains, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral meningitis is mild and clears up in one or two weeks without treatment, but bacterial meningitis is a serious disease that can result in brain damage and death. Bacterial meningitis is spread through close contact and discharge from the mouth and nose, much like a cold.

The CDC recommends a vaccination against meningitis at age 11 and, as recently as November 2010, has begun to recommend a booster shot at age 16 because of “waning immunity” after five years. To be in compliance with the new law, students must either have been vaccinated within five years or have received the booster shot.

Not all TCC students need to comply with the new law. The law is being grandfathered in, applying only to incoming freshmen, transfer students and students who took a break from college. However, if students intend to transfer to a Texas university, they will need to be immunized.

Furthermore, exceptions exist within the law. Students over age 30 and students who cannot take the vaccine for health or religious reasons are exempt. Students must have a physician’s affidavit to decline for health reasons and must sign an affidavit to decline on religious grounds.

The problem that may emerge for college students is the cost of the vaccine, which can eclipse $150. Tarrant County Public Health centers offer a limited supply of vaccines that are partially funded by the state, costing patients $25. To qualify, patients must either be uninsured or have insurance that does not cover vaccines. Students with insurance can go to their physicians and pay their regular co-pays.

TR health services coordinator Veronica Warrior isn’t happy with the new law and thinks that community college students’ best interests weren’t at heart when it was passed.

“The thing about it that I hate most is the new information that came out from the state that the cheapest immunizations are $120-$140,” Warrior said. “I’m really upset with our Legislature. I wish they’d spoken with community college folks because there are a lot of situations in community colleges that aren’t found in the private sector.”

TCC nurses aren’t qualified to vaccinate students, but that doesn’t mean the college isn’t doing anything to help students get vaccinated. Associate vice chancellor of enrollment services David Ximenez heads a committee attempting to address the situation. It’s early, but the committee is working closely with Tarrant County Public Health to try and get vaccination clinics on the campuses.

“We are in discussions at this point,” he said. “We haven’t officially planned any time to do this yet. At this point, we’re not 100 percent sure it’ll all come together. Toward the end of the fall term is when it would happen, but they’re preliminary conversations right now.”

NE Campus student Will Pruitt believes the vaccine should not be required, given its high cost and the low number of meningitis deaths (the Visiting Nurse Association estimates between five and 15 college students die per year from meningitis).

“Based on the rarity of it, make it optional,” he said. “It’s good to have, but it’s not something you have to have to live.”

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