UC announced Friday that it would be strengthening its immunization requirements for incoming students. The news comes on the heels of recent measles outbreaks, including occurrences at Disneyland and Ayala Science Library.
“I’m really excited that there’s support and momentum for this new immunization plan,” said Dr. Gina Fleming, medical director for the UC Student Health Insurance Plan. “We know that these preventive measures are effective.”
By 2017, incoming students will be required to be screened for tuberculosis and vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningococcus, tetanus and whooping cough.
Although the news coincided with recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, UC administrators have been planning for the requirement over the past year, working with the California Department of Health and the directors of student health centers across the university system.
The will roll out in three phases. In fall 2015, students will be notified of recommended vaccinations and the requirement to make them mandatory. In fall 2016, students will be expected to have done their vaccinations. Their records will be tied to their ability to register for classes. However, enforcement of the requirements will be delayed until 2017 in order to work out any kinks in the compulsory process without affecting students’ ability to register for classes. By then, students who have not fulfilled vaccination requirements will have a hold placed on their registration.
UC said that the timeline and proposed plan are merely baselines, allowing individual campuses to implement requirements sooner or to make them more stringent.
Currently, the only UC-wide immunization requirement mandates that incoming students who are under 18 receive vaccinations for hepatitis B. Different campuses also have varying additional vaccination requirements.
UCI actually already requires students to have received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Additional immunizations required by UCI are two doses of the chicken pox vaccine, a dose within the last 10 years of the tetanus vaccine and one of the meningitis vaccine.
Incoming UCI students may also be required to be screened for tuberculosis depending on answers to a screening questionnaire included in the incoming student health form. Students who arrived recently in the United States, with some exceptions, are also required to be screened for tuberculosis.
Additionally, international students are also required to be vaccinated for polio.
Vaccinations for hepatitis A and herpes, although not required, are also strongly recommended by UCI.
Students can choose to opt out of vaccinations if they conflict with their religious or personal beliefs, pending approval of a vaccination declination form. The new plan will still allow exceptions due to medical or religious purposes, however, and UC administrators are currently evaluating how to these requests.
Each stage of the plan only affects incoming students, although the policy may be retroactively applied to current students as well.
Nonetheless, Mary Knudtson, chair of the UC Immunization Policy Committee, still strongly urges all students to get immunized.
“All students are strongly encouraged to obtain the vaccines recommended by the California Department of Public Health prior to starting classes,” she said.