University of California announces mandatory measles vaccination requirement

File photo showing Kaufmann Hall, an athletic center on the UCLA campus.
File photo showing Kaufmann Hall, an athletic center on the UCLA campus.
dailymatador/flickr Creative Commons

The University of California announced Friday that it will require new UC students to be vaccinated for measles, as well as a variety of other diseases, starting in 2017.

Right now, UC schools only require students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, although the school system notes in a press release that individual campuses already require additional vaccinations.

"The need is more pressing than ever, given the current multistate measles outbreak and the re-emergence of other vaccine-preventable diseases among those not completely immunized," the school system said in the release, also citing the recent outbreak at Disneyland.

The school system credits the Affordable Care Act covering vaccines as contributing to the school being able to make vaccinations mandatory, thanks to the reduced costs to students of vaccination. Exemptions will still be allowed for religious or medical reasons, UC Student Health Insurance Plan medical director Dr. Gina Fleming said in the release, as well as noting that officials are discussing how to handle requests for other exemptions.

The plan is being phased in starting fall 2015, with incoming students being notified about the vaccines the UC system is recommending and that they will eventually be mandatory. They also note that individual schools can implement the mandatory vaccinations sooner if they want.

Students will be "expected" to have all required vaccines starting in fall 2016, including entering their medical data into a university database, but it won't be enforced until 2017.

"Despite the fact that many people receive the recommended vaccines, there are still documented cases of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in California and on the campuses each year amongst those who were not properly immunized," UC Immunization Policy Committee chair Mary Knudtson said in the release.

Dr. Regina Fleming-Magit, medical director for the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, said the UC plans to document vaccination information through a digital platform.

"We aim to pilot test an immunization module that will allow students to directly get into their electronic medical record and upload their immunization history," Fleming-Magit told KPCC. 

The module process would only be implemented at a few of the UC campuses by Fall 2015. All other campuses are expected to have access to the module by 2016 with the goal that all campuses are aware that the requirement is in effect. However, the UC doesn't plan to enforce it until 2017 she said.

Fleming-Magit noted that the vaccination plan was in the works before there was a measles outbreak in Southern California. Several factors contributed to the delay of the new vaccine requirements, including the cost of vaccines for some students. 

"The cost of vaccines in the past was often a barrier particularly for some of our lower-income students," Fleming-Magit​ said. "With the affordable care act and the coverage for preventive care vaccine in particular at 100 percent, thats really helped break down that barrier" 

The electronic method will also help ease the work of UC health employees who won't have to spend time documenting each student's record individually.

As for students hoping for medical exemptions of the vaccine, the UC will need to figure out a criteria for what exemptions are allowed and develop an appealing process if and when an exemption is denied.

"There is some legislation being proposed that would limit the ability for exemptions," Fleming-Magit said. 

The new vaccine requirements would only be for incoming UC students. 

"We were planning this prior to the measles outbreak, but I think its drawing additional attention to it and hopefully additional support for it because we are going to make sure the word gets out."