Bills require Wyoming college vaccinations, civic duty

2012-02-20T12:42:00Z 2013-03-21T11:56:12Z Bills require Wyoming college vaccinations, civic dutyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 20, 2012 12:42 pm  • 

UPDATE: 1:15 P.M.: CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Most Wyoming college students would be required to get vaccinated against meningitis and those in a state scholarship program would be required to perform volunteer civic service each semester in order to remain eligible for the money, under separate bills recommended on Monday by Senate committees.

The Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee voted 3-2 to advance Senate File 54, which would require the meningitis vaccinations for students within 30 days of enrolling at the University of Wyoming and the state's community colleges.

Separately, the Senate Education Committee voted 5-0 to advance Senate File 98, which would require students receiving Hathaway scholarships perform some kind of community service.

Both proposals go to the full Senate for consideration.

Students and their families would be responsible for paying for the vaccine shots under the meningitis vaccine bill. The UW Student Health Service charges about $125 for the shot.

Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can be easily spread in college dormitories where students are in close quarters and can be fatal.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said his proposal would provide exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

Landen said the vaccination would be an admissions requirement similar to other immunizations that new college students must have for measles, mumps and rubella.

"This is not forced vaccination," he said.

However, several people testified against the bill.

Regina Meena, of Cheyenne, said she objected to the government taking away from parents' control over what goes into their children's bodies.

In addition, she and others questioned whether meningitis on Wyoming's college campuses was a big enough problem to warrant requiring vaccinations.

"I don't buy that we have an issue here that we have to control," Meena said.

State Health Officer Wendy Braund said immunization is one of the most effective means to combat diseases.

According to the state Health Department, 26 cases of bacterial meningitis occurred in Wyoming from 2001 to 2011, four of which resulted in death. There were no cases in Albany County where the University of Wyoming is located.

Committee chairman Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said he supported the legislation, recalling the number of people who used to die or be disabled by diseases, such as polio, before vaccines were established to prevent them.

Senate File 98 would require students receiving Hathaway scholarships to perform some kind of community service. The Hathaway program provides varying levels of scholarship money to Wyoming residents in state colleges, based on their academic performance.

They would be required to complete at least 12 hours of volunteer civic service each semester in order to retain the scholarship.

UW and community colleges would be required to establish civic service days on Saturdays for students to perform volunteer services.

In addition, the committee broadened the types of community services eligible so that it could include such things as raking leaves for an elderly neighbor.

Sponsor Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said the idea behind the proposal is not to jeopardize scholarships but to get students involved in helping their communities.


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