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Vaccinations: Why You Need Them For College


College students, like grade schoolers, also face vaccinations before heading off to school. After hundreds of cases reported on college campuses a few years ago, Texas in 2011 required a shot against bacterial meningitis for all college students.

In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Brian Jones, a family medicine specialist with  Methodist Family Health Center Cedar Hill, talks about why college students need the meningitis vaccine and three other shots.

Highlights from Dr. Jones’ interview:

Why college students need a vaccine against meningitis: "Meningitis requires close contact to be transmitted, but it does spread rapidly in large groups where people are in close contact and are sharing alcoholic beverages or anything that might impact their immune system or overall health."

How serious is meningitis? "Meningitis is a deadly disease. If it’s not caught early in its course, it’s very dangerous. It’s also very sudden; it can come on quickly without a lot of signs or symptoms, except for perhaps fever or headache. And then before you know it, you have someone who’s sick and seriously ill."

Who needs the vaccine for meningitis: "Most people will have the vaccine between 11 and 12, but they’ll need a booster at 16 or 18 or, if they haven’t had that, before they go to college. If you’ve had a previous reaction to it, you should not get the vaccine. If you’re currently taking chemotherapy or some other type of medication that would compromise your immune system, you might not want to take it."

Other recommended vaccines: "The human papilloma vaccine. HPV’s a very common sexually transmitted disease. And it’s preventable, especially the parts that are dangerous, the strains that cause cervical cancer and cause genital warts can be mostly prevented by the HPV vaccine. That’s a very common disease in college. Also, the influenza vaccine. And the other vaccine would be the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine."

For more information

College Vaccine Requirements 

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: Bacterial Meningitis

Meningococcal Disease: Information for Teens and College Students 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.