Mandatory vaccinations should be considered
The sad and unexpected death of Dustin Foote last week should be all that’s needed to convince the Aspen Skiing Co., the Aspen Music Festival and School and any other organizations that use dorm-style housing in the upper valley to begin mandatory vaccinations for bacterial meningococcal disease. Foote died on Feb. 15, less than 24 hours after he began to feel ill, of meningitis, a swelling of the fluids that surround the brain and spinal cord that results from bacterial meningococcal disease. Foote was a 22-year-old man from Washington state working as a food server and enjoying the winter in Snowmass Village. He’d been here only a few months and was said to have made plenty of new friends. Like close to 70 percent of the people who are afflicted by bacterial meningococcal disease, Foote died soon after he was diagnosed.About the same time that Dustin Foote died, a panel of physicians at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all college freshmen who live in dorms should be vaccinated for bacterial meningococcal disease. Their recommendation was made largely because of the increased risk of infection for young people living in close proximity. The incidence of bacterial meningococcal disease among the general population is less than one in 100,000; the incidence among college freshmen is more than five in 100,000.Two doctors from Colorado who sat on the panel told The Aspen Times that the housing situation in resort communities like Aspen – where young adults share small apartments in large complexes – are similar enough to dormitories at colleges and universities to expect increased risk of infection.If the CDC accepts the recommendation made last week, as is expected, the Skico and MAA owe it to their employees and students at the very least to offer vaccination against bacterial meningococcal disease for all their young employees and students. They should even consider making vaccination mandatory for all who stay in densely packed complexes like the MAA housing at Burlingame and Marolt.While the odds of contracting the disease are small, there’s no point in tolerating that higher risk of infection here.Both the Skico and the Aspen Music Festival and School attract young people from all over the world to work and learn and play and experience Aspen. It is sad and unfortunate that we’ve lost one such young person to a preventable ailment. To lose another because we didn’t learn a lesson from Dustin Foote’s death would be inexcusable.
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