Senate Bill (SB) 1107, also known as The Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act, became law on May 27, 2011. It requires all entering students, under the age of 30, attending a college or university in Texas to get the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4).
The cost of the vaccine is $100.00. That’s a high price to pay for a student taking only one class at a community college. But Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams paid even a higher price.
Jamie Schanbaum, a former UT-San Antonio student who later transferred to UT-Austin, was 21-years old in mid-November 2008, when she was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of meningococcal septicaemia, a very severe of meningococcal bacteria that poisons the blood.
Two days later, the doctors placed her in a coma, due to her organs failing, but Jamie didn’t give up. She survived but not without losing all her fingers and her legs from the knee down.
This is the second act named for Jamie Schanbaum. The first, The Jamie Schanbaum Act (HB 4189), became law in June 2009, and stated that the meningitis vaccination was required for a first-time student, including a transfer student, who was living on-campus housing.
Nicolis Williams was just one of the reasons for the changes in the vaccine requirements. Nicolis was a student at Texas A&M University in College Station who died shortly after contracting bacterial meningitis. He did not live on campus, so he was not required to get the vaccine.
The other main factor for the change in the law was the recommendations on meningitis vaccinations released by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (committee), a panel based at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in late January 2011, stating that meningitis cases are found most often in individuals between the ages of 17 and 21.
The law will affect a large number of students, not just high school graduates, entering a college or university for the first time. Others affected include the transfer student, or a student who has time for only one night course at the local community college, or a student who has just graduated with a bachelor’s degree and takes a semester break before returning for a graduate degree; all will be required to get the vaccine before they can register for class.
UTSA is focused on getting all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed before next semester so that all students can register for their classes on time. Dr Beth Wichman, Director of Student Health Services (SHS) stated that SHS is working closely with the registrar’s office, the admissions office and the IT department to formulate a system to flag a student’s record before and after the immunization has been documented, so that any holds on the record can be released for registration.
Wichman is hoping to have the system in place by this November but will have to wait until the final ruling by the UTSA’s legal department and The University of Texas System – Office of General Counsel who are working with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create a recommended format for providing the information to incoming students.
Wichman strongly recommends that students receive the vaccine through their primary physician or at local clinics, like Texas MedClinic and HEB Pharmacy’s Immunization Clinic. For uninsured students under the age of 18, there is the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC). There is a 10-day waiting period for the vaccine to take affect, so UTSA is urging new students to not wait until the last minute.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), which was licensed in 2005, is the preferred vaccine for people two through 55 years of age.
Some of the possible side effects of the vaccine can be mild or severe. Nearly half of the people who receive the vaccine can experience redness or pain near the injection spot and a very small percentage of people will develop a fever. The more severe side effects can be an allergic reaction or Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a serious nervous system disorder, but GBS so rarely happens after receiving the MCV4 vaccine that the CDC cannot be sure that the vaccine is even the cause of the disorder.
For more information about the vaccine, visit CDC’s meningococcal disease website at http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/about/faq.html