Despite a Pennsylvania mandate that all dormitory residents at state-funded schools receive the vaccine for meningococcal meningitis, over 2200 Temple residents have not received the treatment.
Temple Student Health Services is offering the vaccine for $85.
Few students have taken Health Services up on the offer.
Health Services attributes this low number of students not to the somewhat high price tag, but to the fact that approximately 3200 students have submitted proof of prior immunization.
The 2200 students who have not been vaccinated signed a waiver form, which was intended for students with religious objections to medical treatment.
Despite the increasing danger of meningitis on college campuses, these students are wary about handing over their veins and cash to Health Services.
“I’m a college student. I can’t afford to pay for a shot that costs so much when I probably don’t even need it,” said freshman Olivia Berkeley-Hitt.
In compliance with the new law, the Student Health Center has been offering students the meningitis vaccine by appointment since Sept. 26.
The law, which states that all college students that intend to live on campus must either receive the vaccine or sign a waiver specifying that they know the risks of meningitis, took effect late this summer, giving students little time to react before move-in dates for dorms throughout the area.
Meningitis is spread like the flu, although it is much less common.
The number of people infected has doubled since 1991, resulting in nearly 3000 cases a year.
Temple is one of the few schools in the area that has never had a case of meningitis on campus, according to Director of Student Health Services, Dr. Ilene Moore.
Dr. Moore attributes the $85 fee for the vaccine to its cost and the need to keep Health Services “solvent.”
She said that the Public Health Administration has no sliding scale of prices for the vaccine, and most likely would not be able to lower the price except in response to an outbreak.
She added that the price was similar to that of other schools around the country.
According to the World Health Organization website, meningitis vaccines cost between $4 to $50 per dose.
The website did not explain this wide range.
Temple-sponsored health insurance doesn’t provide for the shot unless there has been direct exposure to the virus.
Students have also found that several mainstream health insurance providers do not cover the vaccine.
“We have something called a student health fee,” said freshman Jeremy Cannon, “If this shot is for my health, then why would getting [the shot] cost me so much?”
However, Moore said that if Temple included this immunization in the student health fee, the university would have to add $85 to the health fee.
“Temple has one of the lowest student health fees in the country,” Moore said, “but even [if Temple] bought [the vaccine] en masse it’s not going to make this $85 vaccine into a $15 vaccine.”
The vaccine helps to prevent infection by four out of five strands of the disease and is about 85 percent effective.
Although many of the symptoms aren’t distinguishable from common college ailments such as the flu, cold or strep throat, the best indication that it’s meningitis is that “you feel worse then you ever have in your life,” said Moore.
Holli Powitzky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org