The University of California Office of the President announced in a Feb. 6 press release that it will require all incoming students after 2017 to get vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningococcus, tetanus and whooping cough, as well as a screening for tuberculosis.
Chair of the UC Immunization Policy Committee Mary Knudtson thinks that these requirements are necessary, especially since every UC campus has, in recent years, had cases of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Despite the fact that many people receive the recommended vaccines,” Knudtson said in the press release. “There are still documented cases of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in California and on the campuses each year amongst those who were not properly immunized.”
The plan will only set a baseline for all of the UC campuses, which currently requires students to get vaccinations for Hepatitis B. Each campus can set its own immunization standards or implement the plan sooner.
California state Sens. Richard Pan and Ben Allen announced on Feb. 4 that they would introduce legislation to disallow the parents of school children to opt out of vaccinating their children based on personal beliefs. However, the University of California system will allow exemptions for students with religious and medical concerns.
The University, to build awareness, will send out notifications to all of its Fall 2015 incoming students about the recommended vaccines and the process of making them mandatory.
In Fall 2016, UCSD will expect its incoming students to have gotten the required vaccines but will not enforce the requirement until the following year in which the university will place a hold on the registration of any incoming student who fails to get all of the required vaccinations.
Leaders in student affairs and at student health centers have been collaborating with other departments on their campus’ to ensure that students are aware of the plan. Medical Director for the UC Student Health Insurance Plan Dr. Gina Fleming thinks this aspect is critical.
“We can’t expect students to adhere to a requirement that they haven’t heard about. They need to know what the plan is,” Fleming said in the press release.
Though widely considered a good public health practice, the university has had trouble implementing the requirements because of the costs of vaccines and the difficulty of obtaining and verifying student health information.
However, due to the Affordable Care Act — which provides insurance coverage for vaccines — and the university’s new electronic medical record platform, the university no longer considers costs and verifying student information to be main concerns.
Fleming is confident that the new requirements will have a positive effect on the future of student health and safety.
“I’m really excited that there’s support and momentum for this new immunization plan,” Fleming said. “We know that these preventive measures are effective.”
The UC system began developing the plan last year using recommendations from the California Department of Public Health. The university also consulted its student health center directors, vice chancellors for student affairs and the UC system senior vice president for health sciences and services. University officials are still determining whether they will need additional approvals in the future to implement the plan.