Problem Solvers: Low-Cost Meningitis Vaccine in Short Supply

Students struggling to afford required shot

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Clinics across North Texas are facing a shortage of low-cost meningitis shots.

    The shortage of low-cost doses could impact thousands of uninsured students who can't afford the shot, which can run up to $165.

    Problem Solvers: Shortage of Affordable Meningitis Vaccine

    [DFW] Problem Solvers: Shortage of Affordable Meningitis Vaccine
    Students must get the meningitis vaccine in order to go to college, but there is a shortage of the affordable vaccine, so Problem Solver Kimberly King went looking for answers.

    A Texas law requires all incoming college students to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis as of Jan. 1.

    Dez Lincoln, who took a semester off, needs the the vaccination to re-enroll at Tarrant County College.

    The Tarrant County Health Department told her its clinic was out of doses available at a discount under the state's safety net program. The program allows low-income and uninsured applicants, including students, to get the meningitis shot for $25.

    "I feel it's a setback keeping us from going to school," Lincoln said.

    She checked around at other local clinics, including drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS. Some listed the vaccine at $150.

    Lincoln said she wondered why school and state officials aren't doing more to help students with limited income get the vaccines.

    "I'm just surprised that it hasn't been offered to us free of charge, considering we're trying to go to school," she said. "It's definitely an unexpected expense."

    Frank Griffis, of Tarrant County College, said the manufacturers of the vaccine weren't prepared for the demand.

    He said the college's website posts alternative low-cost clinics where students can go, but some of those clinics are running out of stock.

    "Arlington Minor Emergency clinics called us today and told us they have run out of the meningitis shot they could sell for $45," he said. "They now are charging $110."

    Different manufacturers of the vaccine have different prices, he said.

    "We're still scrambling around trying to find more low-cost vaccine for the students," Griffis said. "We're doing everything we can to fix this problem. We've told students to be patient. We still have several months before spring semester starts."

    Tarrant County College said it anticipates 2,000 of its 50,000 student body will need vaccinations.

    Texas Christian University officials said their health clinic is getting calls from people asking if they can come to there to get the vaccine.

    State health department officials estimate 120,000 first-time, uninsured students across Texas could be affected by the current low stock of discounted vaccine in the state's health department system.

    "It would cost $7.8 million to purchase vaccines for those students," said Chris Van Deusen, Department of State Health services spokesman.

    The department recently had cuts of $7.7 million in federal funding for low-cost programs that cover costs for vaccines, including meningitis.

    After NBC5 Problem Solvers spoke with numerous state and local officials about the shortage, staff

    State Sen. Wendy Davis's office learned Tarrant County's health department had 60 vaccines available at the discounted rate after NBC 5 spoke with numerous state and local officials about the shortage.

    The department set one $25 vaccine aside for Lincoln.

    Davis authored the Texas legislation mandating that students who live on campus be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis.

    The law was passed two years ago, and an additional measure expanded the requirement to all new and transfer students younger than the age 30. Students who re-enroll after a break of at least one semester are also required to be inoculated.

    If you have a problem or story tip that needs investigating, contact NBC 5's Problem Solvers by emailing newstips@nbcuni.com. You can also email your problem by video.