By Marycruz Pineda
Starting Jan. 1, the state of Texas will require first-time students of all public and private colleges in Texas to show proof of vaccination against bacterial meningitis within the previous five years.
Oscar M. Lopez, vice president for student development and enrollment management at Brookhaven College, said if new students are not vaccinated before Jan. 7, they will not be permitted to register for full-term classes. Students who do not meet the January deadline may register for February flex term classes if they provide proof of vaccination before the later deadlines.
According to the Texas State Senate website, proof of vaccination is required only for “entering” students. The requirement does not apply to students who have been enrolled in the institution this past semester, those enrolled only in an online or other distance education course or anyone who is 30 or older.
Lopez said the exemption also extends to early college students, students in prison and dual-credit students.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in June that the Jamie Schaunbaum and Nicolis Williams Act was enacted to expand an already existing vaccination mandate for students living on college campuses to all new students living on or off campus.
Williams, a Texas A&M student, died in February 2011 after contracting bacterial meningitis, the Texas Tribune reported.
Wendy Davis, author of the law, cited Williams’ death as an example of why the mandate should be expanded to all students, because he did not live on campus.
Schaunbaum, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, had both of her lower legs amputated in 2009 because of the disease.
According to www.immunizeusa.org, the Williams and Schaunbaum families worked together to secure the passage of Senate Bill 1107 and the bill was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry May 27.
Lopez said he feels this requirement for new college students will be a barrier keeping them from enrolling because the price of the vaccine may vary from $85 to $150 depending on the health centers students visit.
Mildred Kelley, Brookhaven nurse, said the Dallas County Community College District is working on a deal with vendors to reduce the cost of the vaccine for students, but nothing has been finalized.
According to www.webmd.com, meningitis is best defined as an inflammation of the delicate membranes called meninges that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are many forms of meningitis that can be dangerous and deadly such as bacterial, viral and fungal meningitis.
Meningitis is often caused by infections from bacteria and viruses that originally developed in the body, such as in the ears, sinuses or upper respiratory tract.
Webmd.com ranks bacterial meningitis among the most severe types of meningitis due to its serious infirmity and rapid mortality rate that can occur within 24 to 48 hours. Its most common symptoms can be detected quickly and include fever, severe and persistent headache, vomiting, stiff and painful neck, decreased level of consciousness and seizures.
The age of a person contributes to the disparity of symptoms, causing them to have different forms of symptoms. Antibiotics are prescribed as treatment, but despite treatment, there is a risk of death or long-term complications from the infection, especially in the youngest and oldest patients. Bacteria can easily spread from one individual to another through coughing and sneezing.
Kelley said students can prevent the spread of the disease by washing their hands regularly and not drinking from the same container as someone else in order to prevent getting infected.
Webmd.com also stated Texas has reported 539 cases of bacterial meningitis since 2002; 54 of those cases have resulted in death.
Vicki Wood, Brookhaven tennis professor and ER Technician at The Dallas Medical Center, said she has seen many people die within 24 hours from spinal meningitis. Wood said she encourages students to get the vaccine in order to avoid the severe consequences of meningitis.
Brookhaven students can receive the meningitis vaccine at CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Trinity Pharmacy in Carrollton, Passport Health on Hillcrest Road in Dallas or from a primary care physician.