College Students Now Required To Get Meningitis Vaccine

May 16, 2011

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Many parents are aware of vaccinations their children need before attending kindergarten, middle school and high school, but the Texas Legislature recently passed a law requiring all students to be vaccinated against meningococcal infection (typically meningitis) before starting college.

Adolescents 16-21 years old have the highest rates of meningococcal infection in the U.S. and this law follows a new recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The first dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) should be given to children between the ages of 11 and 12 with a booster dose given at age 16. If your teenager who is 16 years old or older has fallen behind the recommended schedule, they can still receive their first dose of MCV4. For students starting college, they will need to show proof of vaccination within the last 5 years.

My colleague, Dr. Julie Boom, from the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research, and I advocated extensively for this legislation because we have seen firsthand the serious complications that can result from meningitis.

For instance, Leslie Meigs, a University of St. Thomas student who shares her story of overcoming meningococcal meningitis in our book Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story, had to undergo a kidney transplant in 2009 and will most likely face further surgery, dialysis and medication in the years ahead. No child or teenager should have to endure these medical hardships, especially with the availability of vaccines.

I applaud the Texas Legislature for taking heed and creating this law, which when it is signed by the governor will be aptly named in honor of two Texas college students who suffered meningitis: Nicolis "Nico" Williams, a Texas A&M University student who unfortunately passed away earlier this year after contracting the disease, and Jamie Schanbaum, a University of Texas at Austin student who survived a bout with meningitis in 2008.

With or without the law, I want to urge parents to make sure that your children are up to date on all recommended vaccines. Vaccines are safe and the best way to protect children from harmful vaccine-preventable diseases.

For more information about vaccines or to purchase the book Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story, visit www.vaccines.texachildrens.org.

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