POSTED: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 12:33pm
UPDATED: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 12:44pm
AUSTIN, Texas — With the Legislature reducing the number of college students who are required to receive meningitis vaccinations  and making it easier for some to opt out, a number of community college administrators say they are better equipped to ensure a smooth implementation of vaccination requirements.
In 2011, legislators passed a law that required every college student to get meningitis vaccinations — the first measure of its kind in the country. But for many institutions, particularly community colleges, it proved difficult to implement.
Legislators revisited the law this year and passed Senate Bill 62, which takes effect Oct. 1 and changes the age requirements, among other tweaks.
Steve Johnson, a spokesman for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said the first semester in which schools implemented the 2011 law was “mayhem.”
The rule required any new student younger than 30 who took classes on campus, including those who lived off campus, to be vaccinated or to submit a form opting out for medical or religious reasons. It was an expansion of a previous law that had only applied to students living in campus dorms, which are less common at two-year institutions.
There was particular confusion about dealing with students who arrived to classes without the necessary shots, especially when the sudden demand for the vaccine created a shortage in supply.
“No one knew exactly what the requirements were,” Johnson recalled. “Did you have to bar students from admission? Some institutions did, some didn’t. And then there was all this chaos about the availability of the vaccination.”
While much of that chaos leveled out over time, Johnson said community colleges view the changes to the law as one of their most significant legislative victories in 2013.
Most significantly, under SB 62, only students younger than 22 will have to be vaccinated. Lawmakers reduced the age requirement because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people between the ages of 16 and 21 face the greatest risk for meningitis.