ISU immunization rules don’t keep up with needs

Sarah Haas

Children are inundated with vaccines at seemingly every doctor’s visit, but as we age, vaccinations are equally important, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To encourage continued good health, Iowa State began requiring new students, including transfer and graduate students, to have certain vaccinations before registering for classes “a long time ago,” said Penni McKinley, program coordinator at the Thielen Student Health Center.

Currently, two doses of the vaccination for measles is the only requirement for all students, which is commonly received through a combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, commonly referred to as an MMR.

Students must provide proof they received these immunizations by a particular date if he or she wishes to register for next semester’s classes.

“If the student is unable to prove they have had the two doses, we put a hold on the ability to register for classes,” McKinley said. “This semester, we sent out a series of three e-mails to warn students, but it still took a few of them by surprise.”

Iowa State also recommends that students obtain a number of other vaccines, which are not required. The hepatitis B vaccine and several others that range from chickenpox to hepatitis A are recommended, according to the Thielen Student Health Center Web site.

International students must follow slightly different protocol. They are required to obtain a tuberculosis skin test in addition to the other requirement and recommendations.

Recently, the meningococcal and human papilloma virus vaccines entered the public health arena, but they are not yet required by Iowa State.

“College freshmen who live in dormitories are at higher risk for meningococcal disease compared to other people of the same age,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site. It recommends college students receive the vaccination to prevent an outbreak of the highly contagious disease that has low incidence but devastating consequences.

Yet the meningococcal vaccine is not required by Iowa State.

“Now, with meningitis, the state of Iowa put through a law saying that any secondary education institution needs to give information on meningitis and the vaccine to all incoming students,” McKinley said. The state requires an annual report to ensure compliance.

For women, the new three-step HPV treatment is recommended because it guards the body from strains of HPV that can cause deadly cervical cancer.

“Genital human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States,” the CDC’s pamphlet says, and is also “the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women around the world.”

However, Iowa State only requires the two doses of MMR vaccine. The health center does encourage students to be proactive in preventing diseases from meningitis to Influenza.

“We want students to be immunized for things like influenza because we can cut down the number of illnesses in the community, from other students to professors to other staff,” McKinley said.