New vaccination policy should help ensure a healthy student population
The University of California (UC) is instituting a new policy that will require incoming students to be vaccinated, starting Fall 2017. This new policy follows in the footsteps of the 2015 California Senate Bill 277 (SB 277), which removed a number of exemptions to vaccine requirements for public and private elementary and secondary educational institutions. SB 277 was followed by an outpouring of dissent, but 95.6 percent of kindergartners in California completed vaccinations for the 2016-2017 school year.
The change in vaccine requirements has caused controversy, as opponents of vaccines believe that the new policy infringes on constitutional law. However, the UC system has made it clear that the impact of this new policy will mean a safer, healthier campus. The UC system has had multiple cases of infectious diseases every year, including a case of meningitis at UC Davis in February of 2015.
For those who cannot receive vaccines for health reasons, such as an allergy to the vaccine or a congenital condition leading to an impaired immune system, the new policy will offer “herd immunity” from life-threatening diseases.
The Editorial Board supports the new UC policy in the light of the potential for a campus-wide outbreak. The illnesses mentioned above have been largely eradicated due to vaccines. Vaccines work and they protect those who are susceptible to illness but who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons. In the interest of protecting every student on campus, it is imperative that exemptions to vaccines for non-medical reasons are denied.
However, we recognize that there are hurdles to jump in order to get full participation UC-wide. How much more work will have to be done on the administrative level in order to ensure that all students are up-to-date on their vaccinations? What if a student can’t afford to get vaccinated?
Luckily, the UC system has been phasing in vaccine requirements for the last three years. As of 2016, all incoming UC students were expected to have the required vaccines and campuses have been working to make students aware of the upcoming requirement. On the Health-e-Messaging system for UC Davis, the home page states the following message: “All entering UC Davis students are required to complete a Tuberculosis Risk Screening Questionnaire and provide Proof of Vaccination against: Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Varicella, Tdap, Meningitis (under age 22 only).”
The Affordable Care Act has made vaccination much more accessible. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Health Services website, if a student is uninsured, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may also be able to help. VFC is eligible for those under 19 years of age and provides vaccines at no cost. “Underinsured” individuals, or those who have health insurance that does not cover vaccinations, can receive VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers.
This editorial board hopes these measures will help spread awareness on the importance of getting vaccinated, and we encourage those who are not up-to-date on their vaccines to head over to the Student Health and Wellness Center or a private physician. Find more information on vaccination exemptions and requirements from the University of California Immunization Exemption Policy document.