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Penn St. Bars Some Over Meningitis Shots

January 14, 2003

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) _ About 300 students were denied access to their dormitories on Penn State University’s main campus this week because they didn’t comply with a new state law requiring meningitis vaccinations.

The law, passed last summer, requires that students who live on campus be vaccinated or sign a waiver saying they understand the risks and choose not to be vaccinated.

Several other states have similar laws.

The students who were denied access had been told of the requirement several times last semester but didn’t return their forms before dorms opened Sunday for the spring semester, said Kathy Krinks, assistant director of assignment operations for Penn State University Housing.

``I don’t know _ I guess I just never got around to filling it out,″ said Zack Hiscock, a freshman who turned in his form Monday afternoon.

Students who didn’t turn in their forms on time also were not able to use their student ID cards in dining halls.

Bacterial meningitis, an infection of membranes around the brain and spinal cord, kills in roughly 10 percent of cases and does serious harm, including brain damage, in another 10 percent.

Because crowded dorm conditions can spread the disease, it strikes about 100 college students annually nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials weren’t sure how many Penn State students filled out the waiver form Monday.

Gary Schwarzmueller, executive director of the Columbus, Ohio-based Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, said he didn’t know of any other instances where students were denied access to on-campus housing.

At the University of Connecticut, where students arriving last fall were required to have a meningitis vaccination, students and parents had a year’s notice, said Michael Kurland, director of student health services at the university.

But because Pennsylvania’s law didn’t go into effect until three days after Penn State’s dorms had opened for the fall, schools had little time to inform students.

Krinks said only about 5,000 of the 13,000 who live on campus at the main University Park campus had their forms filled out when the fall semester started. When finals ended last month, some 700 had yet to turn in a form.


On the Net:

Penn State University Housing: http://www2.hfs.psu.edu/

Meningitis Foundation of America: http://www.musa.org/

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