An Assembly panel Monday endorsed the idea of requiring college students to get a vaccine for meningitis B, if they’re living on campus.

Cases of bacterial meningitis reported at Princeton in 2013 and 2014 and Rutgers in 2016 were among the reasons cited for the proposed change.

New Jersey already requires a meningitis vaccine administered around age 12, with a booster dose at age 16. But Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, said meningitis B vaccines have been available only since 2014 and are given between ages 16 and 18.

“This is preventable,” Munoz said of the disease, which can cause death, brain damage and loss of limbs. “And we have kids living in colleges who are in close proximity to each other. They are sharing water bottles. There’s kissing going on and contact.”

The idea had its critics at Monday’s hearing of the Assembly health committee, though not as vociferous as at some past hearings related to vaccinations.

Sarah Lane said opposing mandatory vaccinations doesn’t mean opposition to all vaccines: “We can come to a place of being reasonable people that these are each individual medical interventions that need to be decided upon between patients and their providers.”

Christine McGinley said she’s alarmed by how many vaccines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “When will it ever be enough? How many vaccines will be enough?”

The bill was advanced 11-2. An earlier version of the bill got this far last year – but didn’t advance further.

All of the committee’s Democrats voted for the bill, though Assemblyman Jamel Holley, D-Union, said he did so with reservations.

“I’m very concerned about the message that this is sending, when legislators make medical decisions, in a sense,” Holley said.

Republicans were split. Two were opposed, while Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, R-Ocean, joined Munoz, the bill’s sponsor, in supporting it.

“There is a choice, should somebody choose not to vaccinate,” Rumpf said. “They can also choose not to live in the residential college facility.”

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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