Meningitis Vaccine

All Penn State students residing in on-campus housing, including residence halls and apartments, are required by state law to comply with the College and University Student Vaccination Act. Passed in June 2002, the law requires that students acknowledge the Meningococcal Vaccination Certification requirement.

To comply with this law, the student must indicate his/her acknowledgement of the Meningococcal Vaccination Certification when the Housing Contract or lease is accepted. The student is not required to receive the vaccination, but is acknowledging that he or she is aware of the meningitis disease and the availability of a vaccination.

For family housing residents, the primary tenant is responsible for complying with this requirement. Non-students listed on the primary tenant's lease are not required to adhere to the certification.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for additional information about the Meningococcal Vaccination Certification requirement or meningitis. For additional assistance, please see Vaccination Contacts. University Health Services requires students to complete a Health History Form, which is a separate process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meningococcal disease? Why is it so dangerous?

Meningococcal disease includes two forms of bacterial infection, which may occur separately or together:

Meningitis, where the tissues surrounding the spinal cord and the brain are infected, causing swelling and inflammation.

Meningococcemia, where the bacteria get into the bloodstream and travel to many organs of the body.

Between 15 and 20 percent of people who get this disease die. Of those who survive, it is not uncommon to suffer from permanent damage, such as amputation of hands, feet, arms, or legs; brain damage; hearing loss; and seizures.

What are the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease?

The early symptoms can look no different from a cold or flu and therefore are often ignored at first. Some symptoms are headache, fever, stiff neck, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. A purplish red rash, mainly on the arms and legs, sometimes develops, especially as the disease advances. The disease can progress very rapidly, and death can ensue within hours. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance for recovery, but because early symptoms mimic less serious illnesses, it can be hard to make the diagnosis before the illness is more advanced.

Why should college students be concerned about meningococcal disease?

According to the American College Health Association, meningococcal meningitis strikes about 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 300 deaths annually. It is estimated that 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur each year on college campuses and five to fifteen students die as a result. Meningococcal meningitis disease includes two forms of bacterial infection that may occur separately or together. Meningitis infects the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and brain, causing swelling, while meningococcemia causes bacteria to enter the bloodstream, invading the body's organs.

How can I reduce the risk of acquiring meningococcal disease?

A vaccine is now available, which can help protect individuals from meningococcal disease, including meningitis. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recently modified their guidelines to recommend that parents and students be advised of the availability of this vaccine and encouraged to consider having students receive it.

This vaccine has been shown to be 85 percent effective in protecting individuals from four groups (or serotypes) of meningococcus. It does not offer protection against a fifth serotype of meningococcus, which causes about a third of cases in this age group. Adverse reactions, which are mild and infrequent, usually consist of pain or redness at the injection site. Fever and hypersensitivity reactions can occur.

A single-dose vaccination produces protective antibody levels in seven to 10 days. Immunization with meningitis vaccine should be deferred during any acute illness. The vaccine should not be administered to pregnant women or individuals sensitive to thimerosal or any other components of this vaccine. The American College Health Association, a national nonprofit organization serving and representing the interests of professionals and students in health and higher education, does not recommend the vaccine for adults over age 30, as they are rarely afflicted by this infection.

Can I get the vaccine at Penn State?

Yes. For information on requesting vaccinations at University Park and Commonwealth locations, see Vaccination Contacts.

Who do I call if I have more questions?

You should first call your family health care provider to discuss your questions about the meningococcal vaccine. To speak to someone regarding University-sponsored vaccination clinics or the Meningococcal Vaccination/Exception form, see Vaccination Contacts.

Am I required to receive the meningitis vaccination?

No. Students are not required to receive the meningitis vaccination. The vaccination is optional. The certification requirement is your acknowledgement that you were informed of the meningitis disease and the availability of receiving the meningococcal vaccination if you choose to do so.

Vaccination Contacts

University Park

The Assignment Office for Campus Residences
201 Johnston Commons
University Park PA 16802

University Health Services  - 814-863-4463

Penn State Altoona

Housing and Food Services
3000 Ivyside Drive
Altoona PA 16601-5696

Health Services — 814-949-5540
Student Affairs — 814-949-5053

Penn State Beaver

Housing and Food Services
110 University Drive
Monaca PA 15061-2799

Health Services — 724-773-3955
Student Affairs — 724-773-3950

Penn State Berks

Housing and Food Services
2080 Tulpehocken Road
Reading PA 19610-6009

Health Services — 610-396-6075
Student Affairs —610-396-6066

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

Housing and Food Services
4701 College Drive
Erie PA 16563-0300

Health Services — 814-898-6217
Student Affairs — 814-898-6111

Penn State Greater Allegheny

Housing and Food Services
4050 University Drive
McKeesport PA 15132-7698

Health Services — 412-675-9490
Student Affairs — 412-675-9160
The Allegheny County Health Department - 412-578-8060

Penn State Harrisburg

Housing and Food Services
777 West Harrisburg Pike
Middletown PA 17057-4898

Health Services — 717-948-6015
Student Affairs — 717-948-6018

Penn State Hazleton

Housing and Food Services
17 University Drive
Hazleton PA 18202

Health Services — 570-450-3029
Student Affairs — 570-450-3159

Penn State Mont Alto

Housing and Food Services
106 Campus Drive
Mont Alto PA 17237-9703

Health Services — 717-749-6160
Student Affairs — 717-749-6130