Dear students of University of California, Santa Barbara,
It’s come to my attention that on-campus turnout for the meningitis B vaccine has been underwhelming thus far.
As someone who nearly died of meningitis B and now lives without parts of all four limbs because of it, allow me to warn you that you’re putting yourself at risk for an “I’ve-Made-a-Huge-Mistake” moment that will not have comedic implications worthy of Arrested Development.
I was in college once (when Facebook was just a glimmer in Zuckerberg’s eye — chew on that), so I’ll bet I can anticipate and dismantle all of your excuses for not getting vaccinated:
Excuse 1: I don’t have time.
Dismantling: With all due respect, that’s a load of crap (you’re allowed to say anything if you preface it with “with all due respect”). Yes, you’re busy, I understand. You’re not getting enough sleep and you barely have time to grab a bite to eat. That’s all the more reason to get vaccinated. Your immune system is run down, which leaves you vulnerable. So take some time between classes and pop in for a quick shot. And then Tweet about it. If you’re late for your next class, tell your professor to email me.
Excuse 2: Vaccines cause autism.
Dismantling: No they don’t. For your sake I hope you’re not majoring in the sciences.
Excuse 3: I won’t get meningitis B.
Dismantling: It is a rare disease, but it’s become much less rare where you live. The bacteria is clearly on your campus so the only way to be sure you won’t come into contact with it is to avoid interacting with other people, including kissing and, ahem, other “social activities.” Is that a precaution you’re willing to make or would a shot maybe be easier?
Excuse 3: It’s a personal decision that only affects me.
Dismantling: Wrong. There are probably people at your school who cannot get vaccinated because they are immuno-compromised or have allergies. They’re relying on the rest of you to drive vaccination rates high enough to achieve herd immunity and protect everyone. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, do it for them.
Excuse 4: Shots hurt.
Dismantling: Not compared to having dead flesh scraped and sliced off your arms and legs until you bleed and not compared to the post-surgical pain of amputations. Trust me on this.
Bottom line: Get the shot. Make the time. Those of us who have waited years for this vaccine are eyeing your campus enviously. You have a unique opportunity to both protect yourselves against meningitis B and prove you’re just as smart about taking advantage of free preventative medicine as the students at Princeton University, where vaccination rates were reportedly high.
Andy Marso is a journalist for the Topeka Capital-Journal and author of Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me — Then Changed My Life for the Better.