Why Colleges Want Your Vaccination Record

College students notoriously live in close quarters, giving germs an easy path from one person to another. College administrators especially watch out for Meningococcal Meningitis because it has a history of showing up in the dorms. These highly contagious diseases pose a threat to students, but fortunately, vaccines can protect people from some illnesses. Most colleges will ask students to submit a vaccination record before classes start. This might seem strange if you are unfamiliar with vaccines, and perhaps some of you do not know where to start looking for a vaccination record. Keep reading for important background information and answers to your questions. 

Herd Immunity 

Recently, due to an ongoing measles outbreak New York City officials have closed schools to stop the disease from spreading. These public health officials worry about a decrease in herd immunity. Herd immunity refers a group of people who are protected from a disease outbreak because a vast majority of the group is vaccinated.

College Case Study 

 For example, a college dorm houses students that study, eat, sleep and form groups of friends that do everything together. One of the students goes home for a weekend and hangs out with someone who has the mumps. This was one of the few students who did not receive a mumps vaccination. Unfortunately, the student cannot attend classes and must stay in bed due to illness. 

Situation A - Herd Immunity Saves the Day 

Thankfully, their roommate, and other friends, got the mumps vaccination and no one else succumbed to the disease. Although one student got the mumps, an outbreak was avoided. 

Situation B - No Herd Immunity 

The student’s roommate did not receive the vaccination either and, therefore, also gets sick. Before realizing they were sick, the roommate went to dinner with a group of friends. Even more people came down with the mumps and eventually the campus declared an outbreak. Strangely enough, a few people who were vaccinated still got the mumps. How does that make sense? 

Vaccines do not have a 100% effectiveness rate. Most vaccines are effective 85 - 95% of the time. In fact, the more often a person encounters a disease the more likely that disease will infect them. In situation A, the disease never got a chance to infect a large amount of people because the roommate and other friends obtained their vaccinations and stopped the virus from spreading. Whereas in situation B, the unvaccinated people provided an opportunity for the disease to infect many students. Since a higher number of students had the mumps, vaccinated students encountered the disease a higher number of times. This resulted in vaccinated students becoming sick. 

Real Life Example 

Chicken pox, otherwise known as Varicella, shows us herd immunity in action. Vaccinations for chicken pox started in 1995, however, infants under one year of age cannot receive the vaccine. Nevertheless, from 1995 - 2008 chicken pox infections decreased by 90% among babies. Even though babies cannot receive the vaccine, they still receive protection from other people receiving the vaccine. Indeed, sometimes individuals cannot receive a vaccine because they are too young or have another condition that weakens their immune system. Herd immunity can still protect these unvaccinated people! 

 The level of vaccination needed in a population to achieve herd immunity depends on the contagiousness of the disease. Measles, a very contagious disease, needs at least 90 - 95% of the population immunized. If people choose not to receive vaccinations, herd immunity will no longer protect us.  

Once an outbreak starts on a campus, or in any area, even vaccinated individuals have a risk of catching the disease. In Los Angeles, over 1,000 students and staff members had to stay home and could not use public transportation after a measles outbreak. Public health officials, and colleges, take cases of the measles, and any other disease with a vaccine available, very seriously. Situations like the one in Los Angeles will continue to increase if individuals continue to not vaccinate. 

Vaccine FAQs

Where can I find my vaccination record? 

Check out the CDC’s page for tips to find your vaccination records.

Where can a person get vaccinated? 

Most health insurance will cover vaccinations because it is preventive care. This means, it is easier to stop the disease from occurring rather than treat it once diagnosed. 

If you don’t have health insurance check out this link. Additionally, you can search for a health center near you that can provide assistance with low-cost or no-cost vaccines. Also, once you start college, use the student health center as a resource. Studying abroad might require additional vaccinations.

I found my record and now I’m confused...

The names and abbreviations might seem confusing. Some vaccines have been combined so that they can be given in the same shot. Additionally, some vaccines might have multiple dates listed after them. Certain vaccines need to be given multiple times to increase your body’s defenses. Here are some of the most common vaccines you will see on your record and their abbreviations. 

DTaP 

  • Protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • Needs to be given five times.

OPV/IPV 

  • Protects against polio.

  • There are two polio vaccines available, America uses IPV, which is given as an injection. Other countries use OPV, which is given by swallowing two liquid droplets.

MMR

  • Protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

  • Needs to be given twice.

Why isn’t everyone vaccinated? 

As previously mentioned some individuals cannot receive vaccines because they have a weakened immune system. Other people choose not to receive vaccines because of religious or philosophical objections. One of the most popular arguments against vaccines is that they cause autism. This is not true, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Autism Science Foundation have more information. If you’re worried about what can happen after a vaccine, check out the CDC’s webpage on risks. 

This is cool. 

If you made it to the end of this blog and enjoyed reading about vaccines, research majoring in public health. Public health is a broad field, while epidemiology is a more specialized career. Epidemiologists study disease outbreaks and how to control them.  


Before deciding a major, you need to get into college. Need help with that? Check out UPchieve!



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