BALTIMORE — Data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting indicated that 94% of 129 surveyed top-ranked universities in the United States have pre-matriculation vaccination requirements and that 46% of these universities disallowed philosophical exemptions.
“We were interested in how nonvaccination in early childhood could affect the adolescent population,” Ada Fenick, MD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Jurisdictional requirements (states and the District of Columbia) vary for preschool, school-aged, and college attendees, but parents of small children rarely consider the effect of their actions on their child when college-bound.”
While national vaccination requirements have increased, university requirements have not been assessed recently, according to Fenick and colleagues. They noted that this is important because a high prevalence of well-educated, high-income families who are vaccine-hesitant often send their children to elite universities.
The researchers sent a survey to the top 200 universities, according to U.S. News & World Report, with questions on vaccines required for enrollment and other queries pertaining to medical, religious, or philosophical exemptions. They also inquired about the university’s response to noncompliance as well as legal requirements designated by their state.
One hundred twenty-nine surveys were completed; 60% were from public institutions. The researchers found that 94% of universities had at least one pre-matriculation vaccination requirement. Private schools indicated that they required 4.6 vaccines on average, and public schools required 3.21 (P< .0001). The most commonly required vaccine was measles (92.6%). Of the 45 involved states, 67% have laws that require at least one vaccination, and 45% of schools required more than one vaccination.
“Top universities vary in their immunization practices in terms of pre-matriculation immunization requirements, exemption policies, and responses to noncompliance with the policies, but many of them outstrip the jurisdictional requirements,” Fenick said.
As for exemptions, 2% of surveyed colleges disallowed medical exemptions, 2% disallowed religious, and 46% disallowed philosophical exemptions.
The most common university responses to student noncompliance were placing a hold on class registration (89%), adding additional registration fees (13%), and putting a hold on student housing (11%).
“Part of our purpose was to gather tangible information on vaccine practices at universities to provide as a resource to families choosing whether or not to vaccinate their children,” Allison Nösekabel, medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “It will be interesting to see if this information has an impact on vaccination practices.” – by Will Offit
Nösekabel A, et al. Abstract 2370.3. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; April 30-May 3, 2016; Baltimore.
Disclosures: Fenick and Noesekabel report no relevant financial disclosures.