Students all over campus will be seen with more lollipops this semester.
Not because the candy treat has been proven to make you smarter, but because all students planning to live on campus next year have to get shots.
Director of University Health Services Paul Genecin sent letters to all undergraduates during winter break informing them of the new Connecticut law requiring meningitis vaccines for all students living on campus. Students must submit proof of vaccination by September 2002.
Special vaccine clinics will be held in each residential college beginning Jan. 27, according to an e-mail from the Office of Health Promotion and Education sent to some students Wednesday.
Mary Eberle, a state representative and a co-chairwoman of the Public Health Committee, said the law was considered at the insistence of a committee member who lost a family friend to meningitis.
“We also found out that it was mandated in other countries such as Great Britain for college students,” Eberle said. “And we talked with the department and others about the safety of the vaccine, and they said it had been around for a long time and considered to be a very safe vaccine.”
“Meningitis was a very dangerous illness, and by the time you realized it wasn’t the flu, you could be dead,” Eberle said.
Chief of Student Medicine Jim Perlotto said the vaccine is completely safe, but only protects against bacterial meningitis, not viral.
“It’s probably one if the very safest vaccines that’s available,” Perlotto said. “There haven’t been any problems recorded with side effects or reactions with the vaccine. It prevents two major types: type A and type C. But it does not prevent meningitis type B.”
Perlotto said the symptoms of meningitis are fever, a rash that can affect the whole body, headaches, neck stiffness, and spinal stiffness.
“Then usually they become pretty much confused and unresponsive [and] their mental status deteriorates,” Perlotto said. “That can all happen within a very rapid period of time like 24 to 36 hours. It’s a very rare illness.”
Perlotto said that viral meningitis is not as dangerous as bacterial, however. Meningitis is caught through “very direct contact with another person,” such as kissing or sharing a glass, he said.
While Eberle said she believed there had been an outbreak at Central Connecticut State University in the recent past, Perlotto said there have been no cases of meningitis at Yale in the 14 years he has been working there. Perlotto also said that there is no reason to believe that the state of Connecticut is at any more risk than any other state, but that military recruits and college freshmen living in dormitories have been proven to be more susceptible to the illness than other groups.
The new law states that exceptions can be made for students who have religious objections to vaccinations and students who have physical conditions that would interfere with the vaccine. Perlotto said there should be no physical reasons not to have the vaccine.
“Really [there] are no health concerns, no medical conditions which would prevent a person from getting this vaccine, no problems with allergy reactions, it’s really a very safe vaccine,” Perlotto said. “Honestly, the only reason I think a person would not get the vaccine or would waive, it would be for religious reasons.”
Eberle said there have not been any outbreaks of meningitis since the General Assembly mandated the law, and they have had full cooperation from institutions throughout the state.
Alim Manji ’04 said he thinks it’s a really good idea to get vaccinated.
“I don’t want to get sick,” Manji said. “I don’t have a problem with them making us have it.”