Saturday, February 24, 2024

Bill to mandate meningitis shots

April 2, 2001
Music education sophomore Adam Busuttil survived y-strain bacterial meningitis last year. —

Engineering freshman Jonathan Sedon hadn’t heard about the massive immunization effort for meningitis on campus a year ago, or reports about a student hospitalized with the potentially deadly disease.

But he got his shot anyway.

“My mom told me to get the vaccination,” said Sedon, who received a vaccination for meningitis before he came to MSU. “I think it was the right thing to do - I obviously don’t want anything to do with it.”

But Adam Busuttil, the music education sophomore who was stricken with the disease in 1999, wants to make sure everyone knows how dangerous meningitis is. He has teamed up with state Rep. Lauren Hager, R-Port Huron, in an effort to require all new college students are vaccinated against the disease - with or without their parents’ advice.

MSU responded to Busuttil’s infection with a massive campaign that vaccinated some 16,000 students. While those vaccinations were provided for free, the proposed legislation would require students pay for the $75 shot.

MSU began sending out information last fall for new students encouraging immunization against meningitis and a variety of other ailments. The idea of requiring the vaccine was considered but not approved, said Deb Pozega Osburn, director of MSU Media Communications.

Even so, Busuttil believes everyone should get the shot. Busuttil recovered completely from the disease and was given a clean bill of health in January.

“If people actually saw what I went through, I honestly think parents would want their kids to get the vaccine,” said Busuttil, who was given a clean bill of health in January. “It’s very unlikely that someone will get meningitis, but it’s better to never get it.”

Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation around the spinal cord and brain. There are two main types of the disease: Viral meningitis, which has no treatment and works its way out of the body like a cold, and bacterial meningitis.

The bacterial infection, which struck Busuttil, is more dangerous and requires antibiotic treatment and often a stay in the hospital. The disease can be spread through respiratory and throat secretions.

Symptoms of the disease can often be mistaken for the flu, which Hager and other supporters of the bill cite as a good reason for more students to be immunized. It also most often strikes people who live in close quarters, such as students in residence halls.

“The vaccine is available and most people don’t know it exists,” Hager said. “It’s hitting our kids in a dormitory setting.”

Busuttil and Hager believe the most important part of the bill is to raise awareness of meningitis. The MSU student believes there should have been no need for the rush to vaccinate after news of his infection.

“I think people should have learned about meningitis before it happened,” Busuttil said. “If people had the information before, more people would have been vaccinated already.”

While the bill would require students living in residence halls receive the shot, students or parents could sign a waiver to avoid the vaccine.

Supporters of the bill understand that some may decline to be vaccinated for various reasons, but hope all will consider it and examine the information.

The vaccine offers protection against four of five strains of bacterial meningitis.

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