Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Meningitis Vaccination Is So Important for College Students

By Carol J. Baker, MD

By now, most parents and college students in Texas know that incoming college freshmen younger than 30 have to get the meningitis vaccine before attending class. What you might not know is why it’s so important to get the vaccine.

The meningococcal meningitis vaccine prevents an infection that can be severely debilitating and even fatal. Teenagers and college students are at an increased risk for meningitis, which is spread through respiratory secretions transmitted from coughing, sneezing, kissing, and sharing beverages or cigarettes.

I know all parents want to do what’s best for their child. They want peace of mind that their student’s college experience will not be interrupted by a potentially life-threatening, vaccine-preventable disease. And we know that students also don’t want to be robbed of the joy of their college years.

This, however, was not possible for Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams. Schanbaum is a University of Texas student who contracted meningitis during her sophomore year and is now a double amputee because of the effects of the disease. Williams died of meningitis in 2011 during his junior year at Texas A&M University.

Their stories are featured in the video, Facing Meningitis. My colleagues and I at the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children’s Hospital produced this video to drive home the importance of college students receiving the meningococcal meningitis vaccine.

It’s my hope that Facing Meningitis will convince parents and students that the vaccine is the best choice to prevent potentially life-threatening meningitis.

Please visit for more information about the meningitis vaccine and its availability and cost.

Carol J. Baker, MD, is the executive director of the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children’s Hospital and is a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology, and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.

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