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UCSB, Entire UC System Requiring More Student Vaccinations by 2017

More vaccinations will be required of incoming University of California System students, according to new rules rolled out last month by the UC Office of the President, and UC Santa Barbara will be strongly encouraging students to be current with their vaccinations this fall.

UC will require incoming students to be screened for tuberculosis and vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningococcal disease, tetanus and whooping cough, under a plan set to take effect in 2017. Individual campuses are allowed to implement the plan sooner.

Currently, the UC System only requires students to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, although some campuses have more requirements.

Starting this fall, UCSB and other campuses will “be strongly encouraging” all new students to have current immunizations, require them to acknowledge the recommendations and hand over their immunization records, according to Dr. Mary Ferris, UCSB’s Student Health executive director.

In fall 2016, UCSB will start requiring the vaccinations at enrollment, then be more strict with enforcement no later than fall 2017, Ferris said.

UCSB currently recommends that all incoming students arrive with their immunizations up to date, from the list of recommended vaccinations from the California Department of Public Health.

The university currently enforces compliance with state law on Hepatitis B immunizations for students 18 and under through an online admission process. That will continue, Ferris said.

She said diseases like those requiring immunizations are “rare” and that the campus has not had any measles cases, despite a statewide outbreak.

UCSB did have an outbreak of four cases of Meningococcal serogroup B in November 2013, but has not had any cases since.

“For the other diseases, we have one or less annually, but we know that would be much more if we were not vigilant with promoting immunizations, and isolating any cases once they occur to prevent further spread,” Ferris said.

UCSB also will be requiring a mandatory tuberculosis screening from students, beginning this fall.

National guidelines require testing for students traveling from “high-risk” countries where TB is more common, but the UC System is going a step further to require tests for all incoming students to detect hidden TB.

“Most cases of TB occur in persons who had exposure in the past, so we believe the only way to prevent this disease spreading is to find those hidden cases,” Ferris said.

Santa Barbara County reported 29 cases of the diseases in 2014.

“For both immunizations and TB screening, our Student Health Center at UCSB tries to make it as easy as possible for students to drop in, without appointments, to obtain these at their convenience,” Ferris said. 

“Our staff are devoted to preventing these vaccine-preventable diseases, and to keep our campus as healthy as possible.”

Noozhawk also checked in with other local colleges to see what their requirements are.

Santa Barbara City College, like all California community colleges, does not have vaccine requirements for general admission, according to SBCC spokeswoman Joan Galvan.

The school does have a list of vaccinations that it recommends to all students, and “individual programs within the community college such as nursing programs set their own requirements,” she said.

Westmont College recommends that all students be immunized according to a list from the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Dr. David Hernandez, director of Student Health Services.

“Occasionally we have those students that come to us and they’ll have no immunizations and we take note of that,” he said, adding that number is less than 1 percent of the student population.

Students are screened for tuberculosis on an as-needed basis, including if they’ve just returned from certain countries or been exposed to the disease.

Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria does not require proof of immunization except from international students, according to Student Health Services coordinator Alexandra Bell.

Those students must submit proof of measles immunization and a TB test.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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