Meningitis vaccination requirement for scholarship recipients fails in Senate

Two Wyoming Senate files that would have affected Laramie County Community College's Hathaway scholarship recipients and all students who did not have meningitis vaccinations died on floor of the Senate in late February.

Senate File 54, which would have mandated students receive a meningitis vaccination before attending Wyoming's colleges was put down by the Senate's majority floor leader because it was not a pressing issue in this year's budget session of the Wyoming Legislature. "We just ran out of time," Sen. Bill Landen, R– Natrona, said.

Sierra's Race inspired the bill

Landen, a sponsor of the file, said he believed it was important to target the demographic who was most susceptible to meningitis. He said the file was important to him specifically because of how the bill itself actually came to be. High school students in Landen's hometown of Casper helped create the bill after being inspired by the program Sierra's Race Against Meningitis and being affected by a death caused by meningitis at Casper College.

This is not the first time the bill has been defeated by the Senate. Last year, a version of the bill was defeated; however, Landen said this year's version was narrowed to focus on college students.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord that can be life-threatening. According to Sierra's Race Against Meningitis' website, "adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for catching the disease, "and it is spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and drink sharing."

Landen said many opponents of the bill were concerned about the cost of the vaccinations; however, Landen said the vaccination is only about $15 for children under 18, and the cost is covered by many insurance plans and public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

He said other opponents of the bill felt the vaccinations were unnecessary, and many people wouldn't want the vaccination mandated.

Bill's future uncertain

Landen said he is proud of the students taking interest in the bill; however, he was unsure if he would pursue the bill in the future after it died two years in a row.

"I think it's a bill that would save a life someday," Landen said.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord that can be life-threatening. According to Sierra's Race Against Meningitis' website, "adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for catching the disease," and it is spread by "coughing, sneezing, kissing and drink sharing."

Another bill, SF 98, died that would have made college students receiving Hathaway scholarships complete 12 civic-service hours to maintain their scholarships.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D–Albany, said he asked the Senate's majority floor leader not to put the bill on general file.

Rothfuss, a sponsor of the bill, said he was concerned that the bill would not be implemented properly, and the intent of the bill was to allow students to choose a way to serve their college or community in a way they felt was fitting.

"We didn't want Hathaway police," Rothfuss said

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Sierra's Race Against Meningitis

Mayo Clinic meningitis page


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