Smith considering changes to vaccination policy after meningitis - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Smith considering changes to vaccination policy after meningitis diagnosis

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)
NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

Smith College is now considering changing its vaccination policy for incoming freshmen after a student tested positive for bacterial meningitis over the weekend.

An email notifying students that a female student tested positive for bacterial meningitis went out on Sunday.  

Since then, the director for health and wellness at Smith told Western Mass News they are working to make sure every student has access to the Meningitis B vaccine. 

They are also looking at adding the Meningitis B vaccine as a requirement for incoming freshmen.

Since confirming a female student has bacterial meningitis, much of the focus at Smith College over the last 48 hours  is focused on that student and finding anyone who she may have come into contact with.

"Of course, our first activity was the concern around the affected student and we've made contact with her close contacts and provided prophylactic treatment for them, antibiotics," said Pamela McCarthy, director of the Schacht Health and Wellness Center at Smith College.

McCarthy told Western Mass News that over the last two days, many students have come in to get a Meningitis B vaccine - a service offered since last fall, when two students at UMass Amherst were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.  

"We encourage students to do so we want them to come, either call and make and appointment or walk into the Schacht Center and we will be happy to inoculate them," McCarthy added.

Smith junior Sofia Viviana Goetz came in today to get her vaccine. 

"Definitely the Smith email lit a fire under my butt, but also I teach history at a high school in Holyoke, so I think it's definitely good for me to make sure that everything's in working order," Goetz said.

High school students attending college in Massachusetts are required to get the meningitis vaccine, but it only covers four of the five strains of meningitis.  

The fifth strain, Meningitis B, is a separate vaccine only available since 2014.  

However, Smith is considering making it a requirement as early as this fall. 

"We are thinking about this, yes, and we are going to be making a decision about this relatively soon for next year's class," McCarthy explained.

An added layer of insurance for students, McCarthy said, because while bacterial meningitis is rare, it can also be deadly.

We reached out to several colleges in the area.  Western New England University and Springfield College told us they are considering requiring incoming freshman to have the Meningitis B vaccine.  

A UMass spokesperson told Western Mass News that, as a public institution, such a requirement must come from the state.  However, UMass continues to offer vaccination clinics - two are coming up in March and in April. 

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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