HOUSTON -- College students returning to classes after the holiday break have a new requirement to meet: vaccination against bacterial meningitis.
Senate Bill 1107 becomes effective January 1, 2012. It requires all new students, transfer students and returning students to provide proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination. Most Texas colleges and universities are warning that students without evidence of the vaccination cannot attend classes on campus.
"My biggest concern is the cost," complained San Jacinto Community College student Mark Harmon. The vaccination, available through private physicians, health departments, or college health clinics can cost between $100 and $150.
"Our civil liberties are important too and I feel that the state shouldn't be involved with that," added Harmon.
But the state has been involved in this issue since 2009. That's when a law named after college student Jamie Schanbaum was signed by Governor Perry. Schanbaum contracted bacterial meningitis in college. She survived but lost both feet and most of her fingers to the raging infections that followed. Governor Perry signed a law that required all Texas college students living on campus to have the vaccine.
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and fluid that surrounds the brain. Virgal meningitis usually causes mild sickness. Bacterial meningitis can result in severe brain damage and death within 24 hours.
On average a dozen college students die of bacterial meningitis each year in the United State. According to the Centers for Disease Control it is spread "from person to person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. This can occur through coughing, kissing, and sneezing."
But in early 2011 bacterial meningitis claimed the life of Texas A&M student Nicolis Williams. He didn't have to get the vaccine because he lived off campus.
"No one wants to lose a child when they know there is a possibility that death could have been prevented," his father, Greg Williams, told KHOU 11 News back in February.
After the Aggie's death legislators fast tracked a rewrite of the original law. Now every college student, regardless of where they live, has to be vaccinated against the bacteria if they plan to attend classes on campus.
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