image Meningitis immunization to be required

Kennya Santiago was surprised when a hold appeared on her student account.

The English teaching freshman received an email, explaining the hold was due to insufficient immunization records.

“A week after school started I was made aware the university didn’t have all my medical records,” Santiago said. “I wish I knew I didn’t have everything I needed before classes started.”

Santiago said students who live further away would have a lot harder time getting medical records after they have already come to school.

House Bill 1069, which requires students at Indiana public universities to receive the meningitis immunization, passed through the house and the senate and is waiting to be signed by Governor Eric Holcomb.

Indiana high school students are already required to have the meningitis immunization, which means the bill will mostly affect out of state and international college students.

The university places a hold on the accounts of students who have not provided their immunization records. Holds prevent students from registering for classes until the hold is removed.

Brady Sitzman, Deaconess Practice Manager for the USI Health Center, said there are four ways to remove an immunization hold.

Sitzman said the easiest way is to receive the immunization.

“Obviously we encourage students to receive all immunizations,” Sitzman said. “But students can get the immunization hold removed without getting the shot by claiming religious objections, medical objections, or if they are pregnant.”

Sitzman said to file a medical objection the student must sign a form of understanding they are putting their life and the lives of the university community in danger by refusing the immunization.

“We make it very easy for students to receive their vaccinations on campus,” Sitzman said. “We offer the vaccinations at a discounted price than what a student would pay at the local CVS.”

Sitzman said the University Health Center offers the meningitis vaccination for $115, compared to the $145 students would have to pay at CVS.

Ward Harbin, University Family Practice Physician, said the biggest benefit of the bill is establishing preventative standards.

“Meningitis is rare, but devastating,” Harbin said. “The disease grows most rapidly in close communities like college dorms. An epidemic is the last thing you want on a campus.”

Harbin said he doesn’t foresee any problems with requiring the immunization.

“The side effects of the immunization are minimal when compared with the mortality rate of those who are diagnosed with Meningitis,” Harbin said.

According to WebMD, if not treated quickly, bacterial meningitis can sometimes progress from first symptoms to death in less than a day.

Harbin said meningitis is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to the common cold.

“People don’t realize there is something seriously wrong until it is too late,” Harbin said.

DeAnn Payne, Medical office assistant and head of immunizations, said 13 dorm students and 85 non-dorm students currently have vaccine holds on their accounts.

Payne said the university gives students 4 or 5 weeks to submit the required documents.

Santiago said she feels students need to be better educated on the vaccines they need and why they need them.

“When you hand an incoming student a stack of papers about vaccines and other things, that does not benefit the student,” Santiago said. “Most students don’t even read those packets. I wish someone had sat me down and told me exactly what each vaccine prevents and how they benefit the university.”

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