Special vaccination offered at colleges
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Christine McCluskey

Infecting thousands of Americans each year, bacterial meningitis has entered the vocabulary of students and health care providers across the nation as, from 1992 to 1996, half of the outbreaks occurred in schools and colleges. The risk has increased to the point that the American College Health Association has made two recommendations within two years calling for colleges to make their students more aware of the disease, as well as to make immunizations available to students.

In response to recently heightened concerns pertaining to college students. Haverford is offering a “Meningitis Immunization Outreach Program” on Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Founders Hall in conjuction with VACCESSHealth, a provider of adult immunization programs. While Bryn Mawr students are ineligible to participate in the immunization program at Haverford, they can receive the vaccination during regular hours at the BMC Health Center at any time.

Meningitis is “a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord,” according to Catherine Sharbaugh, Nurse Practitioner/Director at Morris Infirmary, and it is fatal for about 10 percent of the 3,000 people who contract the disease each year in the United States.

In the past the disease has predominantly effected infants, but in the recent years older children and voting adults also have become at risk. Doctors say that most factors contributing to the risk of college students are behavioral - smoking, lack of nutrition, alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, and living in close dorm quarters with other students.

While there have been no outbreaks at Haverford or Bryn Mawr, Sharbaugh says Haverford’s vaccination program comes as a “preventative measure.” Haverford already recommends, on the physical form given to incoming freshmen, that they be vaccinated against the disease by their family doctors before arriving at college.

“Students should be able to make an educated decision to have [the vaccine] or not,” Sharhaugh said.

Haverford’s insurance plan covers the cost of immunization; if students are not on that plan, however, there is a cost of $75, which may or may not be covered by their parents’ insurance.

This fee can be billed to students’ bookstore accounts.

At Bryn Mawr, students have been able to receive the meningitis vaccine, for a fee of $75, since October, said Dr. Kay Kerr, the Medical Director of the Health Center. Thus far “a fair number of students” has visited the Center for the vaccine.

The fee is not covered by the college insurance plan required of all students.

Awareness of the disease is higher in the Philadelphia area than in most other parts of the country because the Immunization Task Force is located at the University of Pennsylvania, Kerr noted. This, combined with the “drug companies making a big push to have the vaccine available,” has made students in the bi-college community very aware of the disease, she said.

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