Meningitis vaccine law updated for college students

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COLUMBIA - A law took effect Wednesday, July 1 that requires all students living in on-campus housing at public universities in Missouri to be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis. 

All students living in dormitories starting in the 2015-2016 school year must receive a meningococcal vaccine according to the law, unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis is "a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges."

The CDC states on its website that while meningitis can be caused by physical injury, it's mostly commonly caused by bacteria and viruses.

Andrea Waner with the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health said it's not just college students who should be vaccinated against meningitis. 

"It's incredibly important for everyone to be vaccinated because [meningitis] can be spread very easily," Waner said. "Anybody can be get meningitis, but we see it most commonly in those under one year old and between the ages of 16 and 21."

Waner said it is important for college age students, especially those living in campus housing, to get the vaccine.

"Since we live in a college town, you can see [meningitis] spread in college dormitories," Waner said. "That's why we recommend everyone be vaccinated."

Before the act went into effect, the University of Missouri required that all students living in campus housing receive a meningitis vaccine.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education will now oversee that all guidelines are met for the new law at MU and all other public universities in the state.

Columbia College, a privately owned college, is not affected by the law going into effect, but according to its website the college still requires all students living in campus housing to get a meningitis vaccine unless they fill out a waiver saying they've received information on the disease and still chose not to get vaccinated. 

The CDC recommends that children who get the meningococcal vaccine between 11 and 12 years old get a booster shot at 16 and those who get it between 13 and 15 get a booster shot 18. Children who get it at age 16 or later do not typically need a booster shot according to the CDC.