By Christopher Copeland
Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, new college students, including transfers and students returning from a break in enrollment, will be required to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis before being eligible for enrollment in any Texas institution of higher learning.
That includes Amarillo College.
“It’s a big issue in terms of enrollment,” said Dr. Robert Austin, vice president of student affairs at AC. “It’s the most significant enrollment issue the college has ever faced.”
Austin said the new law could affect anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 students.
“The best-case scenario is that every student who wanted to enroll at AC could get the vaccine free of charge,” he said. “The vaccine, which state officials said would be offered for free, has yet to be seen.”
The Amarillo City Health Department offers the shot for $10, but there is a shortage and it is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Students can get the vaccination at Walgreen’s for $133.99 if they do not have insurance. Austin said he believes many incoming students do not have health insurance to help with the high price.
In addition to potential AC students, an estimated 1,200 students waiting to enroll at West Texas A&M University for the spring 2012 semester need the vaccination.
Dan Garcia, vice president of enrollment management at WT, said its medical center will offer vaccinations on campus for a fee. He said the “big challenge” is going to be availability.
“This is a bunch of crap,” said Kaleb Green, who will be an incoming freshman in the spring. “It’s going to be hard enough for me to pay for books, let alone come up with another $135 for this. If it’s such a big deal, then why don’t the staff and returning students have to get the shot?”
The bacterial meningitis vaccine has been a requirement for students living on campus at several colleges and universities nationwide, including WT. Texas is the first state to require it for all new or transferring students under 30.
According to the U.S. Directors of Health Promotion and Education, “Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. It can cause severe disease that can result in brain damage, coma and even death. The most common symptoms are high fever, headaches and a stiff neck.”
Students can avoid having to take the vaccine altogether if the student is taking only online courses. Exemptions also can be made if the student can provide an affidavit from a licensed physician stating that the vaccine would be injurious to the health or wellbeing of the student or an affidavit signed by the student saying the vaccination impedes his or her conscience or religious beliefs.
For more information about the new law or to request the affidavit form for exemption, students can visit http://www.dshs.state.tx.us.
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011