Parents on mission to get meningitis vaccinations mandatory for freshmen

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Some local parents are renewing their call for meningitis vaccinations to be mandatory for all college freshmen.

Nico Williams got sick during his sophomore year at Texas A&M.

"It went from a cold to him passing out, having seizures, and he was rushed to hospital," says his mother Arlene Williams. "Then it turned out he had meningitis."

Greg and Arlene Williams tell us their son was at the hospital for eight minutes before losing consciousness. He never woke up. That was in 2011.

"It's just an unbelievable experience to have to go through to watch your child die. Particularly when it's something that could have been prevented," Greg Williams says.

At that time, freshmen living on campus were required to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis. Nico lived off campus.

"So I just felt like if the law was modified to include all students, that maybe my son's life would have been spared and future students' lives would have been spared," says Greg Williams.

It did change in 2012 to include all freshmen. Fast forward to last week when Kingwood High School freshman Jacob "Jake" Silva died from a strain of bacterial meningitis that started as strep throat.

"It brought back lots and lots of heartbreak," says Greg Williams.

And it brought back a resolve to see more people vaccinated against the deadly disease. The FDA recently fast-tracked approval of a vaccine that fights a strain of bacterial meningitis that isn't covered in the current ones. The CDC is reviewing it now.

"It's expensive. And this is where we break things down: cost-benefit. It has to be evaluated carefully by public health officials," says Dr. Sheldon Kaplan.

Dr. Kaplan specializes in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. He says many of us carry the bacteria that lead to bacterial meningitis in our noses, but nobody knows why it kills some, and others never get sick. That, he believes, could be part of the delay.

"If money wasn't an issue, we would all be clearly in favor of Serogroup B vaccine being added to the routine schedule."

"You don't want to be the one parent or the one person where your child was the percentage that caught it," Arlene Williams adds. "I would always safeguard against it."

Greg Williams says he knows there are a lot of people out there who are totally against vaccinations. But in the case of a rare disease that can take a life in a matter of hours, he says it's better to be safe than sorry.
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