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Bacterial Meningitis

Requirement for Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination

(Updated October 2013)

As of January 1, 2012, all entering students were required to show evidence of an initial bacterial meningitis vaccine or a booster dose during the five-year period preceding, and at least 10 days prior, to the first day of the first semester in which the student initially enrolls at a Texas higher education institution. An entering student includes a first-time student of a Texas public institution of higher education or private or independent institution and includes a transfer student, or a student who previously attended an institution of higher education before January 1, 2012, and who is enrolling in the same or another institution of higher education following a break in enrollment of at least one fall or spring semester.

Bacterial Meningitis is a serious, potentially deadly disease that can progress extremely fast - so take utmost caution. It is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria that causes meningitis can also infect the blood. This disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year, including 100-125 on college campuses, leading to 5-15 deaths among college students every year. There is a treatment, but those who survive may develop severe health problems or disabilities.

Exceptions to Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination Requirement

A student is not required to submit evidence of receiving the vaccination against bacterial meningitis if the student meets any of the following criteria:

  • the student is 22 years of age or older by the first day of the start of the semester (effective 1/1/2014); or
  • the student is enrolled only in online or other distance education courses; or
  • the student is enrolled in a continuing education course or program that is less than 360 contact hours, or continuing education corporate training; or
  • the student is enrolled in a dual credit course which is taught at a public or private K-12 facility not located on a higher education institution campus; or
  • the student is incarcerated in a Texas prison.

A student is not required to submit evidence of receiving the vaccination against bacterial meningitis if the student submits to the institution:

  • An affidavit or certificate signed by a physician who is duly registered and licensed to practice medicine in the United States, stating that in the physician's opinion, the vaccination would be injurious to the health and well-being of the student; or
  • An affidavit signed by the student stating that the student declines the vaccination for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief. A conscientious exemption form from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) must be used, or
  • Confirmation that the student has completed the Internet-based Department of State Health Services for to claim an exemption for reasons of conscience (for entering students at public junior colleges ONLY).

For information about requesting a conscientious objection exemption form from DSHS click here: http://collegevaccinerequirements.com/. The DSHS exemption form may be ordered electronically; however it will be mailed to the address provided by the student. Please allow up to two weeks to receive the form. The form must be completed, notarized, and submitted to the designated school official at the institution the student will be attending.

For Public Junior College Students only: to access the DSHS secure on-line exemption form click here: https://webds.dshs.state.tx.us/immcojc/ A copy of the form must be submitted to the designated school official at the institution the student will be attending.

DSHS has certain requirements about the expiration of the conscientious objection form, and photocopying the form, as designated in the question and answers below:

1.       How long are the DSHS affidavit exemption forms valid?

These documents are valid for 2 years after the signature date of the notary. For the initial filing, the form must be turned into the school within 90 days of being notarized or it is no longer valid. 

2.       Can the DSHS affidavit exemption forms be transferred from one university to another (as part of their student record)?

For students transferring colleges/universities, it is possible to transfer the affidavit exemption form as long as it is still valid. 

The Texas Health & Safety Code does not address the confidentiality of exemption forms/affidavits after they leave the DSHS office.  Institutions of higher education will need to speak to their own legal counsels about any concerns they have about legal requirements specifically related to the transfer of student records between institutions.

It should be noted that it is not always possible to re-use an immunization exemption form at a second institution once it has been used at the first school.

3.       Can the new DSHS public junior college exemption forms be transferred?

The new public junior college forms are not transferrable as they are specific to the public junior college.  Students will need to get new exemption forms in this instance.

4.       Can the DSHS exemption forms be photocopied?

 No forms can be reproduced whatsoever, it's a violation of law.

5. There are new vaccines for meningitis that protects against meningococcal serogroup B. Are new students enrolling at institutions of higher education required to have it in order to start classes?

The language used to discuss the meningitis college entry requirement in Sec. 51.9192 of the Education Code and §21.613 of the TAC states that students must receive a "bacterial meningitis vaccination." At the time that the rule and statute took effect, only two types of bacterial meningitis vaccines were available to students: meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) and meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4). MenACWY is the preferred vaccine for people 55 years of age and younger, however they both protect against the same four strains of bacterial meningitis (A, C, W and Y).

More recently, two vaccines have become available that offer protection from meningococcal serogroup B. Although several small MenB outbreaks have occurred on college campuses since 2013, college students in general are not at higher risk of MenB than persons of the same age who are not college students. Consequently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) does not routinely recommend MenB vaccination for college students. However, college students may choose to receive MenB vaccine to reduce their risk of serogroup B meningococcal disease. Students should consult a physician to discuss risks. However, it should be noted that vaccination with the MenB vaccine should not replace routine vaccination with MenACWY vaccines.

In accordance with the requirement from the 77th Texas Legislature, all institutions are required to notify all students about bacterial meningitis. See memo and information below.

Memo to Institutions (2001)

Important Information about Bacterial Meningitis

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