TRENTON, NJ – Updated vaccination procedures designed to protect New Jersey college students against meningitis outbreaks were signed into law last week, according to legislators.

The legislation, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), revises the requirement for residential students in four-year institutions of higher education to receive immunization against meningococcal disease. Such  immunization protocol will now follow more stringent federal guidelines laid out by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The definition of meningitis is "inflammation of the meninges [which protects the central nervous system and is located in the outer layer of the brain] caused by viral or bacterial infection and marked by intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, and muscular rigidity, leading (in severe cases) to convulsions, delirium, and death." Meningitis is highly contagious.

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Before this bill was signed into law, only the meningitis conjugate vaccine was mandated for college students in New Jersey. Legislative officials said this law updates the state’s requirements to match the guidelines of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

So now, according to the law, if a college is experiencing an outbreak, the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (which is different from the conjugate vaccine) will be mandated to help prevent the spread of that version of the disease.

“This law creates a proactive policy that mirrors the CDC’s recommendations to help prevent potential outbreaks in the future,” Sumter said.  “In addition, it may even reduce the severity or impact of illness that could create a public health crisis on a college or university campus if exposed.”

“Students already deal with the academic, physical and emotional stress that can accompany college life,” Mukherji said. “This law will help ensure that outbreaks of this kind will be one less issue of which they need to be concerned.”

Outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease have occurred at Princeton University and Rutgers University over the last several years. The introduction of new meningitis B vaccines and ACIP’s revised recommendations will help address potential future outbreaks and increase the immunization rates among New Jersey students attending four-year institutions of higher education.

The law will take effect in September of this year.