Students worry about lack of immunization requirements

Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer

Murray State does not require incoming students to update their immunization records, causing health concerns among students.

The University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Kentucky State University are the only state schools requiring freshmen to update their immunization records, but no Kentucky universities require the meningitis B vaccine, according to a press release from the Kentucky Immunization Coalition.

“More than 100 students have died in recent years from contracting bacterial meningitis on college campuses across the country,”  said Tracy Kielman, director of the Kentucky Immunization Coalition.

Mara Hosick, sophomore from Columbia, Illinois, said she thinks the immunization policy should be changed.

“I think it is really scary, and I definitely think it should be changed because if there was an outbreak, it would definitely spread like wildfire, just like any sickness across campus,” Hosick said.

Kielman said the meningococcal B has only been on the market for a couple of years, but it is a vaccine recommended for college-age students because they are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

“It seems like with colleges, people are more grouped together and more often, like the living quarters, sharing showers, particularly sports people who are using sports equipment, lockers, locker rooms.” Kielman said. “Those type of things are more prone to the disease than people on a daily basis that don’t have direct contact with each other.”

Kielman said doctors are giving a booster dose for meningococcal at 16, but it does not protect against strain B. She said students need to be responsible and look into receiving those vaccines themselves.

The traditional meningococcal vaccine guards against groups A, C, W and Y, but there is a new vaccine to protect against group V, which accounts for one-third of bacterial meningitis cases, according the press release.

The meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitides and has 13 different subtypes, according to the Immunization Action Coalition website. One of these subtypes is group B.

Veronica Ruby, freshman from Danville, Kentucky, said you don’t think about disease outbreaks, until it happens.

“So, if they would require it, it would get people to realize that it’s important,” Ruby said.

Hosick said Murray State needs to get the word out about meningococcal because she did not know what it was until it was brought up in a conversation two years ago.

Ruby said the university can remind students to update their vaccinations before school begins through an email or letter.

Kielman said campus health clinics need to encourage students to update immunization records and they can do this by offering incentives or educating about the importance of the vaccinations.

She said more of Kentucky’s colleges should consider adopting immunization policies to protect students’ health and decrease the risk of a disease outbreak.

Students can receive vaccinations at their family general practitioner offices, a local pharmacy or health department.