A Texas law that took effect in January 2012 requires nearly all college students to be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis. Jessica Vess of KVUE News reported that the state legislature passed The Jamie Shanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act in the summer of 2011 to protect students after Shanbaum and Williams developed devastating bacterial meningitis infections.
Shanbaum contracted the disease at The University of Texas in 2008. Doctors amputated all of her fingers and both legs below the knee to save her life.
Then Williams became ill at Texas A&M University in February 2011. He died of meningitis.
“Demand for the vaccine has caused several health departments to run out,” reported Gabe Gutierrez of KHOU 11 News in Houston. The vaccine costs approximately $150 at pharmacies such as CVS.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site reported that two types of meningitis vaccine are available. The meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine is marketed as Menomune(R). The meningococcal conjugate vaccine has two brand names, Menactra(R) and Menveo(R).
The CDC site explained that meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infection. The viral form is usually not severe, but bacterial meningitis may cause brain damage. Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Neisseria meningitidis are the most important bacteria types.
Most children are vaccinated against Hib as part of their routine vaccinations. The pneumonia vaccine covers Streptococcus pneumoniae. The meningitis vaccines required by the new Texas law cover Neisseria meningitidis.
In its weekly report for August 5, 2011, the CDC recommended that all adolescents aged 11 through 18 be vaccinated for meningitis. Other persons age 2 through 55 who are at increased risk for meningitis should also be vaccinated.
The web site Vaccines for Everyone (http://www.vaccinesforeveryone.com/), from the Texas Department of State Health Services, provides complete vaccination recommendations for all ages.
1. KVUE News.