GW Student Health Services held a clinic where more than 1,000 students received a meningitis vaccination Wednesday.
Operating in both the Marvin Center Ballroom and the Thurston Hall television lounge, Student Health staff joined nurses and aides from VACCESSHealth, a private company that specializes in conducting mass-immunization clinics, to administer the vaccination.
Isabel Goldenberg, medical director of Student Health, said students received vaccine injections for $75.
Less than two months ago, a University of Maryland student was hospitalized for meningitis.
Meningitis is a rare bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and results in death in 10 percent of the cases, according to information released by VACCESSHealth. The disease is spread through bodily fluids expelled through breathing or on objects shared with infected people, such as cigarettes or glasses.
Today’s clinic was the first time that GW had specifically encouraged a mass-immunization drive for the rare disease, Goldenberg said. The vaccine, which protects against four of the five strains of meningitis that account for more than 62 percent of the cases on college campuses, has been available since 1981.
Until recently, many doctors did not recommend the vaccination, Goldenberg said. However, incidence of the disease on college campuses has risen in the last decade. Goldenberg said the number of reported cases among all 18- to 24-year-olds doubled to more than 600 since 1991.
The heightened risk of contracting meningitis on college campuses was highlighted in several studies that were released earlier this year, Goldenberg said.
According to the new studies, college freshmen are particularly susceptible to meningitis because of their living environments, Goldenberg said. She said the communal nature of residence hall life as well as excessive alcohol consumption and exposure to cigarette smoke place college freshmen at a particularly high risk.
VACCESSHealth Director of Client Services Gursh Bindra said the vaccine used at the clinic is safe and said few cases required intervention. He said side effects from the vaccine are minimal, usually causing redness at the site of injection.
VACCESSHealth promoted the clinic through direct informational mailings to parents. Bindra said his company would have preferred to also send similar information to the students, but the GW administration did not allow it to do so.
Many of the students who received the immunization said they came because their parents had told them to attend the clinic.
I’d been talking about getting it anyway, but my parents really wanted me to get it, freshman Kendra Tamez said.
If students missed today’s clinic, they can still receive immunizations for the same price at Student Health, Goldenberg said.