July 19, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers hosts meningitis clinics to vaccinate students in beginning of year

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

Obiura Onwubuya, a Pharmacy Manager with Walgreens, gives a meningitis shot to Amber Shiffner, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior. After two students were diagnosed with the disease last semester, Rutgers launched an effort to vaccinate every undergraduate.

Rutgers meningitis B clinics aim to efficiently vaccinate students and prevent further cases.

There were two cases of Meningococcal B at Rutgers last semester. These two cases were of the same strain, said Melodee Lasky, assistant vice chancellor of Health and Wellness.

"(In) working with the CDC and the Department of Health, it was determined that this was an outbreak situation,” she said.

Numerous groups around Rutgers came together to work on preventing a future outbreak.

They adapted a multi-pronged approach. This process began in the summer, with alerting students of the severity of meningitis B, and advising them to get vaccinated, she said.

Knowing that not everyone would have the time to get vaccinated, or the accessibility to the vaccines, the clinics were set up. Setting up clinics on campus was an integral part of the plan, as well as making the vaccinates available in the student health centers by appointment.

The clinics have a very streamlined process, allowing students to be vaccinated without much wait.

The average time spent at the clinics is 14 minutes, said Nick Taylor, a Rutgers Business School graduate who monitors the logistics and effectiveness of the clinics. Signing into the clinic and checking in takes nine minutes on average, and the time between check-in and receiving the vaccine takes five minutes on average.

If one opts for the fast-track option, and fills out their insurance paperwork beforehand, the wait time is even shorter.

Vaccinating the students at an institution as large as Rutgers is a difficult logistical exercise.

“Our target group was the undergraduate population,” Lasky said.

The undergraduate population is comprised of 35,000 students, and the vaccine must be administered on three separate occasions. The vaccine is also fairly new, only being licensed in 2014.

The vaccination process spans six months.

“The first dose is given, and then the second dose is one to two months after the first dose and the third does is six months after the first dose,” Lasky said.

Good hygiene can also help, such as hand-washing, covering a cough and not sharing drinks or anything that touches one’s lips. Despite this, vaccination is still the best defense.

Administration of the vaccine does not need to come from the same place. For example, students can get the first dose at home, the second dose at school and the third from the pharmacy.

“We’d like to prevent cases. I’ll be very happy if we have no more cases of any sero-group Men B,” she said. “It’s a serious disease, and hopefully nobody will get it.”

Contracting meningitis B can mean death within hours or days, or loss of limbs.

The number of students already vaccinated, or on the path to vaccination is out pacing other universities.

At other universities, about one-third of the target population has been vaccinated. So far, the University is drawing close to more than one-third already.

“It’s gone extremely well,” Lasky said.

Those aiding with the effort are not just those working in Student Health, Lasky said. Student Affairs, Occupational Health, Rutgers Environmental Health and Safety, Student Insurance, emergency medical services and student volunteers have been crucial fixtures in the smoothness of the process.

Even Residence Life is making sure students are on some sort of path towards vaccination before giving out keys to dormitories.

“When you do something this massive, and this important you really need to pull a lot of people together from within the University” Lasky said.

They want people waiting as little time as possible.

“I thought it was super easy. I thought it would take a lot longer. I think they did it really well,” said Taleen Demirdjian, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior.

She has recently received her first dose through the clinic that was on College Avenue Monday afternoon.

“I am concerned about (meningitis B),” she said.

She said Rutgers is making an effort to inform students about the dangers of Meningitis B, not just raising awareness of the outbreak.

She did not opt for the fast track option, but still found the process to be very quick. Those working at the clinic were informed, and willing to answer any questions. They also provide snacks and Tylenol, she said.

“I think we’re doing pretty darn good,” Lasky said.

The next clinic will be on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 12 to 8 p.m. in the Busch Student Center. All upcoming clinic dates can be found at health.rutgers.edu/clinics.

Faith Hoatson is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.

Faith Hoatson

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