College students can still get vaccinations

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The Denton County Health Department has a small supply of meningitis vaccines for college students ages 19 and older who still need them.

A new state law requires all incoming freshmen, transfer students and students who have taken a break from school for a semester or more to be inoculated at least 10 days before the first day of the semester.

County health department spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said the state has asked county health departments to continue offering the vaccine through Wednesday. Vaccines are available at both the Denton and Lewisville clinics.

McKinney said the health department will not turn away students with insurance because it wants the vaccine to go to the population it's intended for.

Students 18 years and younger are covered under the Texas Vaccines for Children program. There are exemptions for students older than 30 or for students taking only online classes, and universities can grant exemptions in special cases.

The University of North Texas Student Health and Wellness Center also has vaccines, said Herschel Voorhees, director of clinical services.

Students who plan to enroll in the summer and fall semesters are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Texas Woman's University gave students through the week of late registration for this semester to get the vaccine, said Richard Nicholas, vice president for student life. 

"We did not extend any further into the semester," Nicholas said. "And that's an academic issue," adding that university officials didn't want students to fall behind in their classes.

TWU turned away 168 students who hadn't met the requirement at the beginning of the semester, but some may have been able to come back after getting the shot, Nicholas said.

UNT gave extensions for special circumstances, such as international students who wouldn't be back in the country to get the shot in time, Voorhees said.

"Each university has that ability to grant extensions based on individual cases," he said.

Considering this was the first time universities and colleges were implementing the law, Voorhees said he thought it went fairly well.

Previously, only new and transfer students living on campus were required to get the vaccine.

North Central Texas College gave students an extension up to the first class meeting, said Billy Roessler, vice president of student services.

"We did work with students, giving them as much time as we could," he said.

NCTC is trying to get the word out to high schools in order to lessen the hassle for incoming freshman classes.

Some NCTC students were turned away because they didn't meet the new requirement, but Roessler said exact numbers weren't yet available.

He said one problem he foresees is that students transferring from a university to a community college will be considered newcomers and will be required to get a vaccine, Roessler said.

"For community colleges, that's going to be your next wave," he said.

Nicholas and Roessler both said what will remain unknown is how many students were unable to apply or register because they didn't get the vaccine or couldn't afford it.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.

 

VACCINATIONs AVAILABLE

Meningitis vaccines for college students are being offered through Wednesday at the Denton County Health Department in Denton, 535 S. Loop 288. Cost is $20. For more information, call 940-349-2900 for the Denton clinic or 972-434-4700 for the Lewisville clinic.


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