This week, the New York State Legislature passed a bill mandating the seventh graders in the State of New York to be vaccinated in protection against meningitis, a fatal illness spread through exchange of saliva. Under the bill, failure to comply with the required vaccination would subject the student to school exclusion.
The aforementioned bill would require seventh graders to have already received the meningitis vaccine beginning in the month of September, 2016. A booster shot would then follow to be given in their 12th grade, the period where meningitis vaccination is recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be administered. And by that time, many doctors could provide it.
A Democrat from Sullivan County, Aileen M. Gunther, an assemblywoman and the principal sponsor of the bill, stated that it was passed after reviewing testimonies heard from the medical experts, parents who had lost their children to meningitis, and those who had been afflicted with meningitis and survived but with serious complications, amputation in particular, as after effects.
“It’s a disaster,” Ms. Gunther said. “The science tells us that we can do something.”
However, there were some concerned who believe in the claim that vaccination can cause autism—a belief that most scientists say has no credible scientific evidence—and expressed their opposition to the bill. Nonetheless, Ms. Gunther, a registered nurse, articulated this particular vaccine would be administered long after when autism is commonly developed and diagnosed. For parents with religious concern, they are required to apply to their child’s school for religious exemption from the immunization, the same as with other mandated vaccines.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who will sign the bill into law, is currently reviewing the bill, as said by his spokeswoman.
In 2012, 17-year-old Kimberly Coffey, who was a senior of East Islip High School on Long Island, died of meningitis one week before her senior prom. Her mother, Patti Wukovits, is one of the supporters of the bill.
Meningitis is often easily confused with meningitis. Ms. Wukovits attested to this when her daughter was feeling ill and had a fever of 101. She was amazed to have witnessed how quickly the disease progressed. Overnight, Kimberly’s ankles began to develop purplish-looking spots that eventually went up and spread all over her body. She was brought to the emergency room and confined to the hospital for nine days, before being pronounced brain-dead. Kimberly Coffey was buried wearing her prom dress.
“If she had survived, she would have been a quadruple amputee,” Ms. Wukovits added. “She would have had a tough life.”
Advocating for meningococcal vaccination and to spread awareness of the disease, Ms. Wukovits initiated the Kimberly Coffey Foundation.
Meningitis is a potentially fatal infection of the covering of the brain, the meninges, and the spinal cord; this disease can also cause serious blood infections. Some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious which can be spread through direct contact with an infected person like kissing or simple sharing the same cup. If not treated right away, it can lead to death within a few hours.