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Editorial: UC should require extra vaccinations for incoming class

By Editorial Board

Feb. 2, 2015 12:13 a.m.

Following outbreaks of several infectious diseases on college campuses in recent years – including an outbreak of meningitis at UC Santa Barbara in 2013 – the University of California should move quickly to make sure its students are properly immunized.

The UC is currently considering a tentative plan to require an extended list of vaccinations for its incoming students and to compile a database of students’ immunization records. The UC should quickly implement this plan, which will both increase the number of immunized students on campus and give the University important information about who is immunized, allowing them to take appropriate action in the event of an outbreak.

The required immunizations under the University’s tentative plan should include, at the minimum, vaccines against some of the most common and preventable infectious diseases: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox), meningococcal, tetanus diphtheria and pertussis and Hepatitis B.

The University should implement these immunization requirements for the next incoming freshman class.

Additionally, if the University rolls out this plan as expected, it should only allow exemptions to vaccinations based on documented medical or religious reasons. Students should not be allowed to refuse vaccinations simply because they don’t want them or because they illogically believe vaccines are dangerous. Those students who cannot be vaccinated depend on healthy, able-bodied individuals to protect them from perfectly preventable but potentially debilitating diseases.

Currently, UCLA only requires that students have their Hepatitis B vaccination, the bare minimum required by state law. Students can opt out of this requirement for personal, medical, religious or cultural reasons.

But that requirement is not adequate to protect a large, densely populated campus from disease. As an outbreak of the measles takes hold in California and a growing number of parents are opting out of vaccinations for their children, it’s particularly important for the University to take preventative action.

Last week, a case of chicken pox was discovered in a UCLA dormitory. So far, no other cases have been confirmed and university officials have responded quickly to the case. But preventing the spread of infectious diseases like this largely depends on public immunity.

Some people cannot be vaccinated because it’s medically dangerous – they either have allergies to the vaccination or suppressed immune systems that make vaccinations potentially deadly. Those people depend on the rest of the healthy population to protect them from preventable disease. This phenomenon is called herd immunity.

It’s the responsibility of healthy, able-bodied people to immunize themselves and protect others from potentially deadly diseases. The very young, the very old and those with compromised immune systems depend on the rest of the population to do that.

The University can begin taking its own steps to making sure that its students, a population that’s particularly likely to spread disease, are properly taking that responsibility upon themselves.

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