TN bill would change vaccination requirements for colleges - WSMV News 4

TN bill would change vaccination requirements for colleges

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Tennessee could soon change the law when it comes to the meningitis vaccine. Right now, the state does not require college students to receive it, but that could soon change.

Individual schools are allowed to set their own rules, and at least one lawmaker doesn't think that does enough to protect students living in close quarters from a disease that could easily prove deadly.

In September, Middle Tennessee State University freshman Jacob Nunley died from bacterial meningitis.

Nunley lived in a fraternity house on the Murfreesboro campus, so his death prompted worries over who else might contract the disease.

"Everybody who comes to the university who's going to be in a large group, like dorms, it's good to get the meningitis vaccine," said Dr. Eric Clark, with MTSU Health Services.

Currently, state law does not require students to receive a meningitis vaccine, but a bill from State Sen. Lowe Finney may change that.

"Among the various state colleges, there are differing policies on immunization requirements," Finney said. "And what we should seek to do is have some uniformity in what the requirements would be on these types of immunizations."

Finney's bill would require students at public colleges and universities to prove they received a meningitis vaccine before enrolling. Exceptions include a doctor's note or religious beliefs.

At private colleges or universities, students who live on-campus would continue to sign waivers, acknowledging they received information on meningitis provided by the school.

"When I was in college several years ago, my best friend had meningitis and luckily caught it early enough and it was treated," Finney said. "It's hopefully a first step in protecting these college students."

Students would also need to tell their school if they received the vaccine or not, an idea that makes sense for at least one college student.

"On campus, you come in contact - especially living in dorms - really easy. I've been sick, like six times already," said Mackenzie Gardner, a student at Austin Peay State University. "We're all in really close contact with each other. We all live in the same dorm. We share facilities, so I think it's a good idea to get it."

Finney just introduced the bill this week, so it will take some time to see if it'll stick and become law.

The Tennessee Department of Health declined to comment on whether it thinks it could be a good idea.

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