Flood of Students Needing Meningitis Vaccine by Spring Semester

by Jen Kastner 
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND- Bacterial Meningitis is a serious infection that covers the brain and spinal cord. Once contracted, it can spread incredibly fast. For years, colleges and universities have required students living in the dorms to get the vaccine, but now the doors have opened up to a much larger group of students who'll need it. They'd better get it quickly.

Ronnie Marley works at NewsWest 9 to put himself through school. For him, every penny counts. "Whenever I saw that the lawmakers were considering doing the immunizations, I was happy they were doing it but a few months later when they passed it and I saw how much it was actually going to cost me, it upset me."

In fact, Marley forked over $133.00 for his meningitis vaccine. "I had to ask my parents to pay for it. Even though I work full-time, I still couldn't afford it," he says.

Marley goes to Midland College. The college, along with the rest of Texas' higher education institutions, will now be requiring most of their students to show proof of vaccination by the start of the spring semester.

Midland College Spokesperson Rebecca Bell tells NewsWest 9, "It's for any student that has not had the vaccine within the past five years. They should have the vaccine at least 10 days before the semester starts."

Midland College students should get the vaccine by January 7th, 2012. However, there are a few exceptions.

Bell says, "Students that are over the age of 30 are exempt. If a student was taking classes during the fall 2011 semester then they are also exempt." Also exempt are students taking online classes, those in dual-enrollment and anyone who's part of the continuing education program.

If you don't comply, you'll be kicked out. The health department says the state's doing it for your own safety.

Midland Health Department Nurse, Felecia McCubbin, says, "This is a bacterial infection and it can be deadly. You can die in a matter of hours after you get this bacterial infection. It's very aggressive and so the vaccine is just to help fight it off and hopefully keep you from getting it."

It doesn't come without a cost. The school is directing their students to HEB, Walgreens and Graham pharmacy. Those places will charge you somewhere around $130.00 for the shot. Midland College says their hands are tied when it comes to the high price. The vaccine is state-mandated and they simply don't have the budget to absorb the cost. We're told most insurance companies should cover at least a part of it.

If you don't have insurance, the health department tells NewsWest 9, they'll help the uninsured based on a sliding fee scale.

McCubbin adds, "It is expensive, but whatever you have to pay, hopefully your life is worth more than that amount of money."

Midland Health and Senior Services: (432) 681-7613.