Texas Expands Vaccine Requirements For College Students

More college students in Texas will soon be required to get the meningitis vaccine. A new law goes into effect on January 1st for all incoming college students in the state.

A few years ago, Texas lawmakers authorized a bill that requires all college students who live in on-campus dorms to get the meningitis vaccine.

Anna Draegsbeck is President of the Immunization Partnership. She says while that law was important, it didn't go far

"Nicholas Williams was a student up at A&M in College Station and he contracted bacterial meningitis and died from it. Had he taken the vaccine, he would be alive today. Nicholas was not living on campus, so the old law did not apply to him."

Draegsbeck says Nicholas Williams died within eight minutes of going to the emergency room.

The legislature changed the law so that all new students under the age of 30 must show proof of having the vaccine, regardless of where they live. Draegsbeck says bacterial meningitis is very rare, but it's difficult to diagnose and often gets confused with the flu. That's why she thinks the vaccination is so important.

"It's a vaccine like any other vaccine, it's usually administered in the arm. It's a very quick process. Your physician should have the vaccine, if he or she does not carry the vaccine they can probably tell you where to go to get it. Your insurance, if you have insurance, it should cover it."

The law will affect thousands of new students who enroll in the spring and fall, including students at two-year and community colleges. It won't apply to students who are already enrolled before January 1st.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...