The University of California has announced that incoming students will be recommended to be screened for tuberculosis and vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningococcus, tetanus and whooping cough.
At present, the UC system, which has more than 200,000 undergraduate and graduate students together in all 10 campuses, only requires the students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, even though several campuses have additional requirements.
The plan has been in the works for a year and has been designed to help protect the health of the students and campus communities. But since current outbreaks in several US states and the re-emergence of other preventable diseases among those who are not completely immunized, it has become a matter of urgency to put this plan into action.
Dr. Gina Fleming, the medical director for the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, expressed her views about the requirements.
"I'm really excited that there's support and momentum for this new immunization plan. We know that these preventive measures are effective."
Mary Knudtson, executive director of the UC Santa Cruz Student Health Center and chair of the UC Immunization Policy Committee, described the plan:
"The University of California is committed to protecting the health and well- being of our students. 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."
The plan may take about three years to put into effect at all the campuses statewide, though individual campuses may implement regulations more quickly.
By fall 2015, the incoming students of the University of California will be notified of the new policy. Even though it will not be technically required until fall 2017, students will be expected to have the vaccines by the next fall. Students those who are not vaccinated by then will have a hold put on their registration.
Knudtson further explained the plan:
"Despite the fact that many people receive the recommended vaccines, there are still documented cases of outbreaks of vaccine- preventable disease in California and so on the campuses each year amongst those who were not properly immunized. All students are strongly encouraged to obtain the vaccines recommended by the California Department of Public Health prior to starting classes."
The UC system also decided that students who have medical and religious objections will be exempt. Some parents believe that vaccines may cause autism and depend on provisions that allow exemptions based on personal beliefs.
As stated by Dr. Fleming, officials are determining whether additional approvals are needed to adopt the plan even as they move forward with implementation.
Dr. Fleming stated her concern:
"That's really a critical piece. We can't expect students to adhere to a requirement that they haven't heard about. They need to know what the plan is."