Older college students will soon have a little more cash thanks to a new Texas law that eliminates the meningitis immunization requirement for students over 22.This is a huge step in the right direction for TCC students, said David Ximenez, associate vice chancellor for enrollment services at Tarrant County College.The law retools some of the requirements from the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act, which previously expanded the immunization requirements for college students. That law stipulated that beginning in 2012, all entering students up to age 30 had to be vaccinated unless enrolled in online classes only.Now, that age threshold has been lowered to 22. The change takes effect Oct. 1, meaning it will affect students applying for college during the spring 2014 semester. Senate Bill 62 was authored by Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and signed by Gov. Rick Perry earlier this month. The vaccination legislation aligns the current college student meningitis immunization rules with the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.We fully support SB 62 because it is evidence-based. Aligning the law with the CDC recommendations will ensure that those most at risk are protected from this devastating disease, said Anna Dragsbaek, president and CEO of the Immunization Partnership in Houston.Ximenez estimates that TCC students paid about $4.5 million in meningitis vaccine costs during the last year and a half. Many community college students getting the vaccine were older than 22, he said.Ximenez said the new rules will also help lessen the administrative burden on college staff. With more time, they can focus on helping students succeed in college. Bacterial meningitis is described as a greater risk for young people. It is a disease that can cause serious complications such as brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities. Symptoms include severe headache, fever and vomiting. A person can grow sicker and end up in a coma, according to experts.Last year, some students complained that they werent aware of the rules and that vaccines were a pocketbook hardship.Ximenez said TCC students have been paying about $100 to $130 for the vaccine. That vaccination cost was a financial burden for many of our students, he said.Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said families can check with their healthcare providers to see if they qualify for immunizations through the Texas Vaccines for Children program. That program, which includes the meningitis vaccine, is aimed at uninsured and underinsured children through age 18, Van Deusen said. This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1