Photo credit: iStock courtesy UC news service
By Miriam Raftery
February 8, 2015 (San Diego)--The University of California has announced that it will require incoming students to be vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningococcus, tetanus and whooping cough. Students must show proof of these vaccinations and also be screened for tuberculosis, starting in 2017. However individual campuses can choose to begin implementation earlier, a press release issued by the UC system states.
Currently, the UC system only requires students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, though several campuses have additional requirements.
The plan — designed to help protect the health of students and campus communities — has been in the works for a year. But the need is more pressing than ever, given the current multi-state measles outbreak and the re-emergence of other vaccine-preventable diseases among those not completely immunized.
Dr. Gina Fleming, medical director for the UC Student Health Insurance Plan says, “We know that these preventive measures are effective.”
The plan was developed based on recommendations from the California Department of Public Health, and in consultation with UC’s student health center representatives and others.
In fall 2016, all incoming UC students will be expected to have their required vaccines and enter the data into the university’s electronic medical record platform. But the plan is not to enforce the requirement until the following year. Starting in fall 2017, UC students who do not meet the vaccination requirement will have a hold put on their registration.
All UC campuses have experienced cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years.
While getting such vaccines has long been considered a good public health practice, the cost of vaccines and the difficulty for student health staff to obtain and verify the information have been barriers to implementation.
Two developments have broken down those barriers, The Affordable Care Act now provides insurance coverage for vaccines. Also, a new electronic medical record platform soon will allow UC students to directly enter their vaccination date.
The issue of immunization has evolved into a hot topic of discussion in California and across the nation in recent weeks after a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. In Sacramento, legislators are introducing a bill that would eliminate the ability for parents of school children to opt out of vaccinating their kids based on a personal belief.
UC’s plan will allow exemptions for medical or religious purposes In the coming months, officials will discuss how to handle requests for other exemptions and how to validate the vaccination information.
UC’s plan might be extended to already enrolled students and additional vaccines could be added later, such as meningitis, hepatitis A and flu shots.