NEIU sent out an email on Sept. 23 informing the student body that it is now mandatory for all students under the age of 22 to have been vaccinated for meningitis as soon as possible. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) describes meningitis as an inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include a high fever, headache, no appetite and several other symptoms over the course of consecutive days. Students can be evaluated at NEIU’s Student Health Services if they feel as though they are at risk. Jennifer Lasko, a nurse at Student Health Services detailed why the vaccine is so important.
Lasko described how, “Public schools throughout the country are making it mandatory for all students to get vaccinated.” At NEIU, all students, whether they are a graduate, transfer or international student, are required to receive the vaccine between the ages of 16-22. For those older than 22, it is not required, but highly recommended. For students living on campus, not getting vaccinated can put others at risk of contraction due to meningitis being an airborne disease. Although the disease is rare, it spreads easily and rapidly, which is why people ages 11-18 are most affected. Lasko also explained how, “there have been cases where college students have died due to not being vaccinated.” For example, CNN wrote a story about a student who went to San Diego State University student died of meningitis in 2014. This left 400 other people to be examined who came in contact with her and who were possibly affected by meningitis.
“Unless it is for a medical or religious reason, the school is requiring all students to get the vaccine, so go get it done by the end of the semester,” stated Lasko. She explained how easy it is to check if one is up to date with all vaccines. By simply going to Student Health Services and asking, an updated list of vaccinations can be confirmed. The next step would be actually getting the vaccine, which can be done by consulting with a physician. Although it is not required, Lasko mentions that getting the meningitis B vaccine is also beneficial.
Another nurse at Student Health Services, Catherine Kuenstler, explained that the vaccine is not available for students on campus. “For those without insurance, the vaccine would cost $100-$150 if you go to the pharmacy,” Kuenstler said. However, she offered more affordable alternatives. “If you go on www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov, you can put in your zip code and see the closest low cost health clinic in your area,” she stated. Kuenstler also mentioned the nearest clinic to campus is Erie Family Health Centers.
Lasko and Kuenstler both mentioned that students can go to Student Health Services to also see if their physicians are keeping their immunization records up to date. Moreover, students should make sure that they get vaccinated for all required immunizations.