Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination and Information
Published or Revised June 12, 2014
Beginning on January 1, 2012, all entering students are required to show evidence of an initial bacterial meningitis vaccine or a booster dose during the five-year period preceding and at least 10 days prior to the first day of the first semester in which the student initially enrolls at an institution. An entering student includes a first-time student of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education and includes a transfer student, or a student who previously attended an institution of higher education before January 1, 2012, and who is enrolling in the same or another institution of higher education following a break in enrollment of at least one fall or spring semester.
Bacterial Meningitis is a serious, potentially deadly disease that can progress extremely fast - so take utmost caution. It is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria that causes meningitis can also infect the blood. This disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year, including 100-125 on college campuses, leading to 5-15 deaths among college students every year. There is a treatment, but those who survive may develop severe health problems or disabilities.
Exceptions to Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination Requirement
Acceptable evidence of vaccination or receiving a booster dose includes:
- A student is not required to submit evidence of receiving the vaccination against bacterial meningitis if the student meets any of the following criteria: The student is 22 years of age or older by the first day of the start of the semester (effective 1/1/2014); or
- An affidavit or certificate signed by a physician who is duly registered and licensed to practice medicine in the United States, stating that in the physician’s opinion, the vaccination would be injurious to the health and well-being of the student; or
- the student is enrolled in a continuing education course or program that is less than 360 contact hours, or continuing education corporate training; or
- the student is enrolled in a dual credit course which is taught at a public or private K-12 facility not located on a higher education institution campus; or
- the student is incarcerated in a Texas prison.
A student is not required to submit evidence of receiving the vaccination against bacterial meningitis if the student submits to the institution:
- An affidavit or a certificate signed by a physician who is duly registered and licensed to practice medicine in the United States, in which it is stated that, in the physician’s opinion, the vaccination required would be injurious to the health and well-being of the student, or
- An affidavit signed by the student stating that the student declines the vaccination for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief. A conscientious exemption form from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) must be used; or
- Confirmation that the student has completed the Internet-based Department of State Health Services for to claim an exemption for reasons of conscience (for entering students at public junior colleges ONLY).
Click here for information about requesting a conscientious objection exemption form from DSHS. The DSHS exemption form may be ordered electronically; however it will be mailed to the address provided by the student. Please allow up to two weeks to receive the form. The form must be completed, notarized, and submitted to the designated school official at the institution the student will be attending.
For Public Junior College Students only, click here to access the DSHS secure on-line exemption form. A copy of the form must be submitted to the designated school official at the institution the student will be attending.
DSHS has certain requirements about the expiration of the conscientious objection form, and photocopying the form, as designated in the question and answers below:
1. How long are the DSHS affidavit exemption forms valid?
These documents are valid for 2 years after the signature date of the notary. For the initial filing, the form must be turned into the school within 90 days of being notarized or it is no longer valid.
2. Can the DSHS affidavit exemption forms be transferred from one university to another (as part of their student record)?
For students transferring colleges/universities, it is possible to transfer the affidavit exemption form as long as it is still valid.
The Texas Health & Safety Code does not address the confidentiality of exemption forms/affidavits after they leave the DSHS office. Institutions of higher education will need to speak to their own legal counsels about any concerns they have about legal requirements specifically related to the transfer of student records between institutions.
It should be noted that it is not always possible to re-use an immunization exemption form at a second institution once it has been used at the first school.
3. Can the new DSHS public junior college exemption forms be transferred?
The new public junior college forms are not transferrable as they are specific to the public junior college. Students will need to get new exemption forms in this instance.
4. Can the DSHS exemption forms be photocopied?
No forms can be reproduced whatsoever, it’s a violation of law.
About Bacterial Meningitis
This information is being provided to all new college students in the State of Texas. Bacterial Meningitis is a serious, potentially deadly disease that can progress extremely fast — so take utmost caution. It is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria that causes meningitis can also infect the blood. This disease strikes about 3,000 Americans every year, including 100-125 on college campuses, leading to 5-15 deaths among college students every year. There is a treatment, but those who survive may develop severe health problems or disabilities.
What are the Symptoms?
- High fever
- Rash or purple patches on skin
- Light sensitivity
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Confusion and sleepiness
There may be a rash of tiny, red-purple spots caused by bleeding under the skin. These can occur anywhere on the body.
The more symptoms, the higher the risk, so when these symptoms appear seek immediate medical attention.
How is Bacterial Meningitis Diagnosed?
- Diagnosis is made by a medical provider and is usually based on a combination of clinical symptoms and laboratory results from spinal fluid and blood tests.
- Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.
How is the Disease Transmitted?
- The disease is transmitted when people exchange saliva (such as by kissing, or by sharing drinking containers, utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, etc.) or come in contact with respiratory or throat secretions.
How do you increase your risk?
- Exposure to saliva by sharing cigarettes, water bottles, eating utensils, food, kissing, etc.
- Living in close conditions (such as sharing a room/suite in a dorm or group home).
What are the possible consequences of the disease?
- Death (in 8 to 24 hours from perfectly well to dead)
- Permanent brain damage
- Kidney failure
- Learning disability
- Hearing loss, blindness
- Limb damage (fingers, toes, arms, legs) that requires amputation
Can the disease be treated?
- Antibiotic treatment, if received early, can save lives and chances of recovery are increased. However, permanent disability or death can still occur.
- Vaccinations are available and should be considered for those living in close quarters and/or college students 25 years old or younger.
- Vaccinations are effective against four of the five most common bacterial types that cause 70 percent of the disease in the U.S. (but does not protect against all types of meningitis).
- Vaccinations take seven to 10 days to become effective, with protection lasting three to five years.
- The cost of vaccine varies, so check with your health care provider.
- Vaccination is very safe. Most common side effects are redness and minor pain at injection site for up to two days.
How can I find out more?