An Assembly committee approved legislation on Monday requiring residential students at four-year colleges receive immunization for meningitis B, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-21st District, Assembly Bill 1991 will help prevent outbreaks of meningitis on New Jersey’s college campuses.
New Jersey is one of 38 states requiring college students be inoculated with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. It has been available since the 1980s and helps prevent meningitis caused by serogroups A, C, W, and Y. Meningitis B vaccines have only been available since late 2014.
Munoz’ bill mandates the recommendations of a CDC advisory committee that both vaccines be administered before a student starts college. The conjugate vaccination should be given at age 11 or 12 with a booster dose at 16, and the serogroup B vaccination should be given to teens between the ages of 16 and 18.
“Meningitis can easily spread among people living in close proximity, like college dorms,” said Munoz. “Since there are different strains of bacterial meningitis, it’s important for students to receive the appropriate vaccinations before heading off to school.”
Cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported at Princeton, in 2013 and 2014, and Rutgers in 2016. A total of 10 students were affected by the outbreaks leading to the death of a Drexel University student who was visiting Princeton. Bacterial meningitis was responsible for an average of 500 deaths per year in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007.
Meningitis, said Munoz, is a rare but potentially life-threatening disease that inflames the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can progress quickly, causing death within 48 hours, and lead to permanent brain damage, loss of limbs and hearing, and have other long-term effects.