Demand in Texas Grows for Meningitis Vaccine as New Year Approaches

By: Gabe Gutierrez / KHOU 11 News Email
By: Gabe Gutierrez / KHOU 11 News Email

Click here to see Brazos County Health Departments Policy on Vaccines.

A new law taking effect January 1 will require all Texas college students under 30 to show proof they’ve received the bacterial meningitis vaccine.

Previously, only students living in on-campus dorms were required to have the vaccine.

Meningitis is an infection of the liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial version can be deadly.

The students must provide their college or university evidence of a vaccination within the last five years no later than 10 days prior to the first day of the 2012 semester or term.

Students are allowed to opt out for medical or religious reasons, but supporters of the policy change believe the increased awareness will prevent future deaths.

For Greg and Arlene Williams, it’s a huge victory.

Their son, Nicolis, died in February. The 20-year-old junior at Texas A&M had contracted bacterial meningitis – prompting his parents to join the push for the new law, which the state legislature passed in May.

“I just miss his presence—his laughter,” Greg said. “Of course, nothing can bring him back, but it does create a legacy for him.”

Demand for the vaccine has caused several health departments across the state to run out. Now pharmacies like CVS are reporting increased demand as January 1 approaches.

“We know nearly 1.5 million students entered college in Texas this past fall, and 70,000 more are expected to start in spring 2012,” Angela Patterson, nurse practitioner and MinuteClinic regional manager, said in a news release. “MinuteClinic makes it easy for students to fulfill this vaccination requirement by making meningitis vaccinations available seven days a week with no appointment necessary and providing students the proper documentation to submit to their school.”

Not everyone supported the policy change. Critics complained of the cost – roughly $150 without insurance – and government intrusion.

Dr. Carol Baker of Texas Children’s Hospital chaired the federal panel behind the recommendation.

“It’s completely safe,” she said. “It’s worth the cost.”

Baker also said that while the law only applied to college students, she recommended that younger children around 11 or 12 years old should get vaccinated and then follow up with a booster shot years later.

Anyone over 30 years of age doesn’t need the vaccine because the disease is so rare in people of that age group.

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