Texas College Students Must Get Meningitis Vaccine

Starting next year, all students entering college for the first time will have to be vaccinated for meningitis. The goal is to prevent cases like the Texas A&M student from Sugar Land, who died after contracting the illness. Bill Stamps has more.

Anna Dragsbaek
Anna Dragsbaek of the Immunization Project

The bill was signed into law by Governor Perry, after receiving support from both Republicans and Democrats. Speaking at a news conference announcing the new law, Anna Dragsbaek of the Immunization Project explains who it affects.

“It’s for all students who are entering higher education for the first time. So all new freshmen and anybody else transferring into a school will have to show proof of having had a meningitis vaccine with previous five years.”

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are two types: viral and bacterial.  Doctors say it’s the bacterial cases that can be deadly.

It was in February of this year when 20-year-old college student Nicolis Williams felt what he thought were flu like symptoms. He went to his campus health center at Texas A&M to get help.

“They sent him home to rest and to drink fluids and within a matter of hours his condition worsened significantly. He got back into the emergency room and lost consciousness eight minutes later.”

Nicolis eventually died and his family vowed to help prevent other Texas students from suffering the same fate. There was already a law making it mandatory for college students in dorms to be vaccinated, but the new law expands the requirement to all incoming freshman regardless of where they live.

This is Representative Ron Reynolds of Missouri City who helped get the bill passed.

Representative Ron Reynolds
Rep. Ron Reynolds

“I’m proud to say now that as the law exists now, we can possibly prevent another tragic death from happening on the college campuses across the state of Texas.”

There is a process by which a student can opt out of the vaccination requirement, but doctors don’t recommend it. The new law takes effect next January.