Mid-August marks the time when many of our high school graduates pack
up and head off to college for the first time. This time of year is
always accompanied by packing lists and to-do lists. One item our
students should be sure not to forget: their meningitis vaccination.
of any age can get meningitis, but those most at risk include very
young children, adolescents and, especially, those living in close
quarters like college dormitories. The federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the meningococcal vaccine for
everyone aged 11 to 18 years old. Those who are headed off to college
should have a booster shot if their original dose was given at least
five years earlier.
Current state law requires students in
on-campus housing at public universities to tell administrators whether
they have been vaccinated for meningitis. There is currently no legal
mandate in Ohio that college students be vaccinated, though some other
states have taken that step. In recent years, there have been several
cases of meningitis at Ohio colleges, some fatal. Nationally, about 100
cases of meningitis occur on campuses each year. To protect students,
some colleges require proof of vaccination as a condition of enrollment.
is an extremely personal topic for my family. My five-year-old niece
Tess passed away from this disease, leading me to sponsor Senate Bill
275 to create Meningitis Awareness Day each year on March 9. Because
meningitis is relatively rare, parents and students may be unaware just
how deadly it can be, and unaware that it is preventable with
vaccination. Meningitis Awareness Day is one step toward helping ensure
that other families will not know the devastation of losing a child to
Bacterial meningitis, the most serious form, can cause
inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, a blood
infection, or both. The disease can be difficult to diagnose because
symptoms like headache, fever and nausea can be similar to those of more
common conditions like the flu. But meningitis becomes serious very
quickly, and can kill within 48 hours.
Up to 15 percent of those
who get meningitis will die, and of those who survive, one in five will
have lasting effects like brain damage, hearing loss, or limb
amputation. I believe Meningitis Awareness Day is important because
there is a lot of misinformation spread about vaccines.
comes from the internet or a misguided celebrity, this spreads
confusion and fear about the potential side effects of vaccination. I’m
here to tell you the effects of meningitis are absolutely devastating,
while preventing this deadly disease is as easy as getting a shot. Lives
can be saved by raising awareness about the severity of meningitis and
increasing the vaccination rate for this terrible disease.
Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 275 into law, he turned to me
and said,” We can do more, can’t we?” I assured him we could, and that
I’m committed to doing so. I will be seeking the advice of public health
experts and others as I personally learn more about meningitis and what
can be done to prevent it.
I recently read that, according to Dr.
Michael Brady, chair of the department of pediatrics at Columbus’
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, children too young to receive the
meningococcal vaccine can be protected against meningitis by the
Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine. This is just one example of the
type of information we need to put in the hands of parents to help them
make informed choices about their child’s healthcare.
I thank my
colleagues in the General Assembly for supporting Senate Bill 275 and
making Meningitis Awareness Day a reality. Now as my family remembers
Tess each year on March 9, we will also know that there is indeed
something we can do to help keep other children safe and healthy.
help honor Tess’ memory, I encourage all of our college students to get
vaccinated before heading off to school this year. Help us all stop
another avoidable tragedy by taking the time to get knowledgeable about
Senator Cliff Hite is currently
serving in his second General Assembly as a member of the Ohio Senate,
representing the 1st Senate District, which encompasses an 11 county
region of Northwest Ohio, including all or part of Auglaize, Defiance,
Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Logan, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and
Prior to his appointment to the Senate, Hite served two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Senator Hite can be reached at 614-466-8150