UC to require all students to be vaccinated by 2017

The University of California will soon require all students to have vaccinations. According to the Friday press release from the UC, all UC campuses have experienced some sort of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years. By requiring the vaccinations, the institution hopes to prevent breakouts like they have previously experienced.

The new vaccination requirement will take place in 2017. Students will be notified of the upcoming requirement in the fall of 2015. Students entering UC campuses in the fall of 2016 will be expected to have their vaccinations and enter the information into the university’s electronic medical record platform. By fall of 2017, all students attending UC campuses must meet vaccination requirements. If students do not meet the vaccination requirements, they will have a hold place on their registration.

The University of California previously only required hepatitis B vaccinations, with some campuses having had more requirements. However, this new announcement will require all UC students to have a list of vaccinations. The new requirement will add vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), meningococcus, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). Students will also need to be screened for tuberculosis. The Cal State system has required many of these vaccinations since 2002.

The vaccination requirement has been in the works for a year. However, the UC felt the issue was more pressing given the recent outbreak of diseases once thought to be eradicated in the United States, such as measles.  “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. The plan was developed based on recommendations from the California Department of Public Health.

The UC said there were two barriers to vaccinations in the past. First, the cost of vaccines made it difficult for all students to get vaccinations. However, with the Affordable Care Act, insurance will cover the cost of vaccinations. Second, student health staff had difficulty obtaining and verifying vaccination information. UC now has a new electronic medical record platform that four campuses will be piloting this fall, and the remaining campuses implementing the platform by the fall of 2016.

“The University of California is committed to protecting the health and well-being of our students,” said Mary Knudtson, executive director of the UC Santa Cruz Student Health Center and chair of the UC Immunization Policy Committee. “Therefore, all of the UC campuses are implementing procedures to ensure that students are educated about, and receive, vaccinations to prevent potentially dangerous illnesses and undergo screening to identify those who may have infectious tuberculosis.”

UC will allow for exemptions for medical and religious purposes. UC officials will be discussing how to handle and validate exemptions in the coming months. According to Fleming, “we need to be mindful of the populations we’re serving.” Fleming also shared that other vaccinations may be added later, such as meningococcus B.

The UC system is not the only one discussing vaccination requirements for students in California. State Senators Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) will be introducing legislation that is aimed at increasing the number of children who are immunized in California. The proposal would restrict parents from obtaining “personal belief” exemptions from immunizations for their school children. The legislation would still allow for medical and religious exemptions.

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