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Future of Higher Education

Preventing Meningitis Deaths Among College Students

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meningitis-meningitis b-administrators-higher education-vaccines

After losing her college sophomore daughter to Meningitis B, Alicia Stillman helped co-found the Meningitis B Action Project. Here, she tells us how future college administrators, parents, and students can prevent further deaths of this kind.

Alicia Stillman

What should university administrators know about future trends of higher education?

Infectious diseases that thrive on the way college students behave are going to continue to be a risk. Administrators have to be proactive in working to prevent such threats to ensure that higher education environments remain as safe as possible for students and the larger community. For example, through our work at the Meningitis B Action Project, we have learned that only a handful of colleges and universities require both the MenACWY and MenB vaccines — which are both needed to protect students against the most common types of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is more prevalent among college students so a good first step in addressing this risk factor is to update immunization requirements to require both types of meningitis vaccines, or at the very least make sure students and parents know about the two types of meningitis vaccines.

How can administrators ensure students’ safety and health?

Having lost my daughter to meningitis B — a now-vaccine preventable disease — as a sophomore in college, I believe strongly in the power of vaccines. For many students and parents, college immunization requirements are understood as the only vaccines needed to protect oneself, which is not necessarily true. Comprehensive vaccination requirements are a great way to ensure the health and safety of students and the nearby community.   

What, in your opinion, is the most vital thing for students, teachers, administrators, and parents to tackle during this upcoming school year?

In our opinion, promoting the power and importance of all age-relevant vaccines through a multi-faceted approach is most important as we think about the upcoming school year. Whether it is the seasonal flu vaccine, HPV vaccine, or vaccines to prevent meningitis, we need to make sure parents have the information they need to make a decision for their children and that students feel empowered to take charge of their health through vaccination.

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