SAN ANTONIO – College students across the state already have their first test: They’ve got 10 days before the start of school to prove they've had the meningitis vaccine.
So, 22-year-old Michelle Para started her academic year at UTSA with a shot in the arm.
“Yes it hurt so bad… I hate needles!” Para exclaimed. “People share water bottles and everything. You think it’s so minimal, but it can cost you.”
Bacterial meningitis is a potentially fatal disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. The death of a Texas A & M student in 2011 prompted a new Texas law requiring every college student under age 30 to provide proof of the vaccine or a booster shot in order to register for school.
“It may present as a simple case of the flu, and within 12-24 hours on the onset of those symptoms, patients can be comatose or very acutely ill,” said Dr. Beth Wichman, UTSA’s director of Health Services.
UTSA officials believe thousands of their students will have to roll up their sleeves, or face canceling classes.
A $100 vaccine isn’t cheap, but students say the alternative isn’t worth the risk.
“It’s a huge campus. There are a lot of people here. You got to have it. Make yourself healthier,” said David Rice. The UTSA sophomore engineering student was sporting a fresh Band-Aid from his shot earlier in the day.
No one, Rice said, wants his classes dropped within weeks of the new school year.
“So I hope there are still classes for me I can register for,” she said as she rubbed her arm.
At the same time the new law was enacted, the state cut funding and removed the meningitis vaccine from the list of shots provided for low-income students.
UTSA says cost shouldn’t be a factor, and they have programs for free shots for students who qualify.