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One Girl’s Story Changes the Law

Parents are used to vaccinating children for childhood diseases — but what about when it’s time to go to college? Texas law now requires a vaccination for college students living in on-campus housing.
Laurie Johnson reports.



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Jamie Schanbaum is a junior at the University of Texas with bouncing black curls and a wry sense of humor.
She’s also the reason college students in Texas are now required to get the meningitis vaccine before moving into

“It was a Wednesday night, a school night, and I was at my friend’s apartment just hanging out and I just started to not feel well. And the night was really rough. Every time I would start walking to the bathroom my feet would hurt and the walk to the bathroom would just be more painful. I got home at like 7 o’clock in the morning, something like that and I was in the hospital by 11 — a few hours later and not able to walk.”

Schanbaum was soon diagnosed with meningitis. Doctors put her in a drug-induced coma while they tried to keep her organs from shutting down. She spent seven months in the hospital. Most of her fingers and both legs below the knee were amputated because the disease entered her bloodstream.

Jamie’s mother, Patsy Schanbaum, says a simple vaccination could prevent other families from going through the same thing.

“You get all the vaccines and you take care of your child when they’re in their toddlers and you assume that the vaccines and boosters and all of that is taken care of and you don’t think about college. Because this is now mandatory living in the dorms, it’s going to be a good thing. The parents need to be educated, the students need to be educated and it just can’t just be within the dormitories, it should be with every child.”

The Centers for Disease Control lists college freshmen living in dorms among the most at risk for contracting the disease.

Anna Dragsbaek is a public health attorney and director of The Immunization Partnership, a Houston-based non-profit organization that aims to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases. She says the rate of meningitis among freshmen is nearly twice that of the general population because it spreads easily among people living in close quarters.

“Students entering a dormitory for the first time need to show proof that they have had their meningitis vaccine at least ten days prior to entering the dormitory. So that’s why we’re trying to get the word out now because now is the time if you are entering a dormitory for the first time this semester now is the time that you need to go and get that vaccine so you can start school on time.”

Texas is one of only 15 states to require the vaccine for college students. The Jamie Schanbaum Act went into effect here on January 1st.

“I always wish that I kind of had this education of meningitis and this awareness. And so now that this happened, I’m glad that I’m trying to spread the word out to other kids.”

Schanbaum says it’s gratifying to think her story might be the reason someone else’s life is saved. And because it’s a vaccine-preventable disease, the people who are saved will never even realize it.

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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Executive Director of Content Operations

As Executive Director of Content Operations, Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads the strategic vision and initiatives for News, Digital, Radio Operations and Talk Shows on all of Houston Public Media’s platforms. She brings 20 years of experience in journalism and content development to the role. Her focus is on reaching new audiences,...

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