Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
He still needs a meningitis shot – and he’s too old for the children’s vaccination program and didn’t get a booster shot in high school. She doesn’t want him to miss a semester.
“I don’t want him to linger out too long and start making money and forget about education,” she said. “He definitely needs to go while it’s in his mind to go.”
For many students in Texas, the cost of college includes the price of a meningitis shot.
If you’re 21 and younger, you must have a vaccination before you attend college unless you have a special exemption.
Texas cases of meningitis in 2016
Brazoria County – 1
Collin County – 1
Dallas County – 2
Denton County – 1
Duval County – 1
Ector County – 1
Galveston County – 1
Hardin County – 1
Harris County – 4
Jefferson County – 1
McLennan County – 1
Montgomery County 1
Panola County – 1
Tarrant County – 2
Travis County – 3
Webb County – 1
And with the retail cost exceeding $100 per vaccine, it’s an additional expense that has many students and parents panicking the month before most classes begin at Houston-area colleges and universities.
Meningococcal disease is a rare, yet serious, bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Two dozen cases were identified in Texas in 2016, including four in Harris County.
A meningococcal vaccine has been required for college students in Texas since 2010, when lawmakers passed the Jamie Schanbaum Act after a University of Texas student who survived the illness with amputations and became an immunization activist. The mandate first covered students living in campus housing, then expanded to students under 30 regardless of living arrangements.
In 2013, the law was amended to include only students 21 and younger, which targets the group most at risk for infection. The Texas Department of State Health Services has an online exemption form for those attending public junior colleges and community colleges.
Carter said she priced the meningococcal vaccine at $133 from Walgreens and Kroger pharmacies. She found a clinic offering a cheaper shot for $22 but he couldn’t get an appointment in time for her son to enroll.
There are other options. Health departments in Houston as well as Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Galveston counties have an ample supply of free and discounted doses available under the Vaccines for Children program, which covers eligible patients younger than 19.
Special prices are also available for those a little older. And some schools, including San Jacinto College, have arranged for students to receive discounted vaccines.
Here are options available for reduced-price vaccines:
*Adult Safety Net: For uninsured adults 19 and older, this statewide program offers free meningitis vaccines through an Adult Safety Net program, though providers may charge an administration fee up to $25. If a patient is unable to afford the fee, “the provider may not deny them the vaccination because of their inability to pay,” according to Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen. Visit https://www.dshs.texas.gov/immunize/ASN/public.aspx to find a provider, verify the vaccine availability and to make an appointment.
*Houston Health Department: The agency’s four health centers only charge an administrative fee for vaccines provided to patients who meet the eligibility requirements of the Texas Vaccines for Children and Adult Safety Net programs. Patients 18 and younger who are uninsured, under-insured, American Indian or Alaskan Native can receive a meningitis vaccine for $10 per dose. Medicaid and CHIP recipients ages up to age 18 will not be assessed a fee. Patients 19 and older without health insurance can receive a vaccine for a $15 administrative fee, according to department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal.
*Harris County Public Health: The agency participates in the Vaccines for Children program and charges a $19 administrative fee. Adult Safety Net vaccines are offered for a $22 administrative fee. Patients can receive multiple vaccinations for one administrative fee. The cash price for those who do qualify for federal programs in $110. Clinics have vaccines and appointments available.
*Fort Bend County Health and Human Services: Eligible clients 18 and younger receive a free vaccine with a $10 administrative fee. The charge is $15 for clients 19 and older. “For clients who are unable to pay, we waive the administration fee,” said Dr. M. desVignes-Kendrick, the agency director and county health authority.
*Montgomery County Public Health District: Vaccines are administered for $10 to patients who are uninsured and under-insured. Medicaid-eligible patients will have that fee billed to Medicaid. “We ask that the student bring a shot record so that we can update it,” said the agency’s public health manager, Alicia Hawkins Williams.
*Galveston County Health District: The cash price for the meningitis vaccine is $134, but the immunization clinic accepts Children’s Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield – which cover the vaccine. An uninsured patient can receive state-supplied vaccine for a $14 administrative charge, “which can be waived if the patient cannot pay,” said Scott Packard, director of communications for the Galveston County Health District.
*Christus Foundation for HealthCare: Meningitis vaccines are available for $15 to uninsured children and young adults at clinics in east Houston and Dickinson. Free immunizations will be offered at the Dickinson clinic during a health fair on Aug. 9, a spokeswoman said.
*Walgreens: Most insurance plans cover the vaccine. The cash price is $133.99 and can be reduced to $127.29 using the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club, according to a company spokeswoman.
Meningococcal disease is a rare, yet serious, bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Since 2010, the Lone Star state has a meningitis vaccine requirement for college students. The mandate was named the Jamie Schanbaum Act after a University of Texas student who survived the illness with amputations and became an immunization activist. The law first covered students living in campus housing, then expanded to students under 30 regardless of living arrangements.
In 2013, the law was amended to include only students 21 and younger, which targets the group most at risk for infection.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has an online exemption form for those attending public junior colleges and community colleges.