November 28, 2011
A Texas law requiring that all college students in the state receive a meningitis shot before registering for classes for the first time is backfiring--at least for some of the state's low-income or uninsured students.
The price of the vaccine is estimated to be between $100 to $200 and the News-Register even reported a cost of up to $268 for those who are uninsured.
To counteract the affect on low-income students, state officials contacted area health departments and clinics saying that students who cannot afford the vaccine must be given it for free, according to the Statesman. However, it has not yet been made clear how students go about receiving those free shots or where specifically to go.
Kathleen Christensen, Austin Community College's vice president of student support, responded favorably to the news, though.
"It certainly is going to make it more affordable and more accessible for our students," she said in the Statesman.
The problem was not foreseen when Texas state legislators expanded the existing meningitis vaccination law earlier this year, noted the Statesman. That change required all incoming students under the age of 30, not just those living on campus, to receive the vaccination.
It occurred after an off-campus student contracted meningitis and died in February, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
However, no funding was supplied to help with the expansion of that law. Cory Roark, a student attending North Lake College, a two-year community college in Texas, had strong feelings about where the funding should come from.
"It should be provided by the state if they're going to require it," he said in the News-Register.
However, Texas Department of State Health Services Spokeswoman Christine Mann indicated that supplying all the new students who are expected to be uninsured in the fall of 2012 with the shot would cost some $7.8 million. That number of students is estimated to be around 120,000, according to the Statesman. She also indicated that the state's federally-funded vaccination program for children and students had recently undergone cuts and didn't have additional room.
"Our program doesn't have the funds to serve all uninsured college students who need to get a meningitis vaccine," Mann said in the Statesman.
The shot requirement is problematic because students cannot enroll for school until they show proof of vaccination. They also cannot receive their financial aid unless they are enrolled.
"That creates a barrier to going to college," Jeff Rhodes, registrar at the University of Texas-Pan American, was quoted in the Statesman as saying.
One option for students is to enroll in online colleges since online students in Texas are the only ones exempt from receiving the vaccination, according to the News-Register. Students late to receiving the vaccination could also look for late-start classes.
Some schools are taking steps to offer the vaccine at discounted prices. At North Lake College, for instance, students can receive the vaccine on three specific dates via an independent provider for $135.
Compiled by Maggie O'Neill
"No Meningitis Shot, No School," newsregisteronline.com, November 28, 2011, Andrew Turner
"State to Cover Meningitis Vaccine for College Students," statesman.com, November 19, 2011, Kate Alexander
"Vaccine Law a Burden on Uninsured Students," mysanantonio.com, November 26, 2011