- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A bill that would require two rounds of meningitis vaccinations for Nebraska students between seventh grade and age 16 is unlikely to become law this year.

Its sponsor, Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, filed a procedural motion Thursday to push the measure to the bottom of this year’s legislative agenda.

The bill faced a filibuster led by North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, who said he stands for limited government and personal responsibility. The nearly eight hours of debate that followed centered around opposition to government mandates, so much so that Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion reminded his fellow senators not to convert the bill into a “conservative litmus test.”

Groene said the bill should not be confused with the national vaccine debates surrounding recent measles outbreaks. Groene said the meningitis vaccine is a proven solution to a widespread problem, but the effectiveness fades to 58 percent between the second and fifth years. There were no confirmed cases of meningitis in Nebraska in 2014, the state health department said.

Sen Laura Ebke of Crete said that her daughter received the meningitis vaccine before attending college, but Ebke believes vaccinations for more widespread illnesses, such as human papillomavirus infection, should be considered before a mandatory meningitis vaccine.

Groene and Krist reached a compromise Thursday with an amendment to let parents opt out for “philosophical” reasons in addition to a religious exemption already in place.

The amendment led to more opposition, with some senators worrying the exemption would allow for parents to opt out of other important vaccines.

The motion to postpone debate until June 5 was met with unanimous approval. Krist said he would consider proposing the bill again next year if health officials remain concerned about meningitis.

Between 1,000 and 1,200 people get meningococcal disease, a form of meningitis, each year, according for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten to 15 percent of these people die. The disease leaves 11 to 19 percent of survivors with scarring, amputated limbs, seizures and strokes.

“I hope and pray between now and the time I’m able to readdress this thing someone isn’t adversely affected,” Krist said.

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