Students victims of new state law

Editorial by Ranger Staff

Illustration by Alfredo Linares

Get ready for another obstacle to higher education. On Jan. 1, 2012, a new Texas law will take effect requiring new college students to be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis.

In the past, the law required only students living in dorms to get the vaccination. Now it covers all new students, which means those attending a community college are the most affected.

Bacterial meningitis is one of the more rare but more deadly forms of the possible types of meningitis.

It is spread mostly between groups of people living in close contact with each other.

So while it may be a good idea to get vaccinated, it should be a person’s choice and not a mandatory requirement forced upon us by the state.

The rareness of the infection is the main reason the vaccine should not be mandatory. Bacterial meningitis affects 1,500 Americans each year.

Of that, about 10 percent will die from it. So 150 people across 50 states means the disease is fatal in about three people from each state. With 25,000,000 Texans, that means the chance of dying from meningitis is 1 in 8.3 million.

Bacterial meningitis also is relatively easy to avoid, because it only comes from fluid in the throat or nose.

It is primarily transferred through kissing, sharing drinks and utensils or getting sneezed on.

It can be avoided the same way more common infections are avoided: by washing our hands, avoiding people who are sick and not sharing drinks. Those are the things that even small children know to do.

The requirement has some exemptions. It applies only to first-time students, students who are returning to school after not being enrolled for a semester and anyone transferring to another school.

It is not required for students over 30 years old or for students taking only online classes.

The cost of the vaccine can be between $100 and $200. To its credit, the sate has promised to pick up the bill for anyone who can’t afford it.

That eliminates one barrier, but it doesn’t help if there is a shortage or if the vaccine is not available when students need it.

The government should not force people to get a vaccine for such a rare and easily avoidable disease.

A better way would be to raise awareness about meningitis, then let people decide for themselves. This law is an intrusion into our personal lives and a barrier to education.


Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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