CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University is launching a new immunization policy to decrease the likelihood that students will contract a serious illness while attending school.
OSU already requires students coming to campus to be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella, and get the meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine. Beginning spring term 2016, incoming students will also be required to be immunized for varicella (chickenpox), Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) and hepatitis B.
Current students who entered the university prior to spring term will not be required to show proof of these immunizations, and Ecampus students who do not physically attend OSU are exempt from the requirement. However, most domestic students have likely already received these common immunizations.
OSU health officials also recommend, but are not requiring, vaccination with the meningococcal type B vaccine, especially for students under age 25 who live in residence halls, fraternities or sororities. This is the strain of bacteria that caused a meningitis outbreak during winter, 2015, at the University of Oregon, and which causes about 38 percent of the cases in Oregon.
Students can get the two-dose meningococcal type B vaccine at Student Health Services at a cost of $145 per dose, and should check with their insurance companies to see whether or not it is covered. The Centers for Disease Control guidance on the meningococcal B vaccine, to date, has not resulted in broad insurance coverage, which is why this is not included as part of the required immunizations.
"There's been an increasing conversation about how to best care for students through immunizations," said Student Health Services Executive Director Jenny Haubenreiser.
The conversation was spurred, university officials say, both by recent infectious disease outbreaks on other campuses and requirements for OSU freshmen to live on campus. Health officials say that keeping students healthy also decreases the risk that a serious illness might derail their academic plans.
"When I speak to parents, I say that anything we can do to protect a student from an infectious disease will help keep them in school," Haubenreiser said. "Catching pertussis, for example, could knock a student out for several weeks and reduce their ability to complete that term of school. We want to keep students on track."
All of the required immunizations are provided by Student Health Services and covered by insurance, if given by an in-network provider. There are a limited number of international students whose healthcare costs are covered by their sponsoring countries, resulting in out-of-pocket costs for some-on-campus services. However, Student Health Services staff said they are seeking solutions for these students to minimize impacts and ensure they are able to comply with the immunization policy.
As with previous immunization requirements, students can sign a waiver stating that for philosophical or other reasons, they do not want to be immunized. However, they will have to participate in an educational session at Student Health Services before they can sign the form to waive the immunization requirement. Typically, only a small portion of students opt out of immunization, currently fewer than 250 at OSU.
Connie Hume-Rodman, director of Clinical Services at Student Health Services, said that being a healthy community is part of the university's strategic plan. However, people often don't notice when disease prevention is working, because only outbreaks of serious illness capture public attention.
"Public health is the champion we don't see," she said.
For more information on immunization requirements: http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/general/policies-and-guidelines/immunizations-tb-screening-and-health-history/domestic-student
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Jenny Haubenreiser, 541-737 7576; firstname.lastname@example.org