According to a 2017 CDC survey, in 2015 1.3% of U.S. children, aged between 19-35 months old, went unvaccinated which raises the question of how colleges with immunization policies are affected when it comes to an unvaccinated student.
Northampton Community College, alongside Lehigh University and Lafayette University, have strict immunization policies in place for students who wish to dorm on campus.
Tracy Newman, Health Services Coordinator at NCC, has been working with immunizations and vaccinations for a great portion of her nursing career. Newman had sat down for an interview to answer some questions involving NCC’s immunization policies and the importance of getting vaccinated.
“Immunizations protect you from multiple diseases. Some of those diseases make you sick for just a short period of time, while others could be very serious and life threatening,” Newman said.
Most commonly known diseases include polio, measles, mumps, and whooping cough, along with other viruses like influenza, or simply known as the flu. All these diseases are known as “vaccine- preventable diseases” which means there is a vaccine that would immunize you against these what could be deadly diseases.
The individuals who are most susceptible to these diseases, Newman said, are very young children, the immunodeficient, and the elderly who rely on everyone in the community of being protected against these diseases. 15.6% of the U.S. population is 65 and older, 6.1% are under 5 years, and 22.6% are under 18 years according to the United States Census Bureau.
NCC has over 600 units in our Residence Halls and houses close to 1000 students, ranging in age, some new residents and some returning. However, with such large groups of individuals being lodged in the same building structure there comes positives and negatives to that style of living when it comes to viruses versus immunization.
Vaccinations required by students who wish to dorm on campus include Varicella(Chickenpox), MMR, Meningococcal A-C-W-Y, TDAP. Hepatitis B and Influenza vaccines are the only recommended vaccinations, but are not required.
One of the positives of living in a community surrounding, like the dorms at NCC, is a terminology known as “herd immunity”. Herd immunity occurs when a high portion, 90- 95% Newman said, of individuals are immune to a particular disease through vaccination.
One of the negatives of living in a community surrounding much like the dorms is once there is an outbreak, which is considered one person showing symptoms of a virus or disease, then the virus has a greater opportunity to spread if there are individuals who are not vaccinated or have not updated their vaccinations.
Earlier in January 2019, NCC had a Pertussis, known as whooping cough, outbreak which is contagious and could have spread if not quarantined and if individuals weren’t vaccinated against it. In accordance with our schools policy an email was sent out advising students of the outbreak.
NCC does supply all vaccinations required by the immunization policy, as well as particular major studies like Allied Health, on campus and are authorized to administer the vaccines at a cash rate, meaning that the student pays for the vaccine at the same price the college does. However, this does not answer the question of how does the college’s policy affect a student who has not been vaccinated or whose religious background prevents vaccinations.
There are three exemptions to the immunization policy that NCC allows which are medical exemptions, religious exemptions and personal exemptions. All these exemptions have to be submitted to the school for review before an individual is allowed to move into the dorms without vaccination.
Exemptions at NCC, however, does not come without its consequences which includes having to leave the dorms for possibly several weeks. If there is an outbreak in the dorms and there are students present without a vaccination they have to vacate the dorms until the outbreak is done.
Most incubation periods for viruses could last for days or weeks depending on the virus and infection rate.
Immunization and vaccination, however, have become a hot topic which gave birth to a small movement known as anti-vaxxers which challenges not only herd immunity but also challenges the policies set in place by education platforms.
“One of the challenges of immunization, these days, is that most people have never seen or experienced some of these diseases because of the success of immunization,” Newman said.
Most diseases, like polio and measles, have almost completely eradicated within the U.S. with a couple cases showing up due to a change in the virus strain which changes the protocol in how we treat the disease. In either case, vaccinations has been the answer to almost all diseases and viruses and has been protecting society since their creation.
If any students want to know more about immunization and vaccinations or have any general questions they should stop by the Health Services office in College Center 120.