Immunizations, for most of us, are associated with unpleasant pediatric appointments from our childhood. However, there are a few vaccinations that are important for young adults to pay attention to. Below is a summary of the recommendations for college-age students:
MMR: MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) is a 2 shot vaccine series that is usually started at 1 year of age. This is the only vaccine that is required by NYS prior to admission to college.
Tdap: The Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is usually recommended in the preteen years, but can be given at an older age for those who did not receive it. Tetanus becomes a concern when one receives a puncture or deep wound, or a serious burn. In cases such as this when the student’s last tetanus vaccine is close to or greater than 10 years old, we may recommended a tetanus be administered by the health clinic or primary care clinician.
Meningococcal: Meningitis is something that has been seen on college campuses in recent years, and it is recommended that incoming freshmen receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Ideally, the first dose is prior to their 16th birthday, and a booster before going to college. The health department also has a meningococcal B vaccine available for added protection. Meningitis is a serious infection, either bacterial or viral, which affects nervous tissue. It is contagious. The vaccine is safe and effective and the feeling is that within the next couple years, it will be a NYS requirement for incoming freshmen to be vaccinated.
HPV vaccine: This vaccine is recommended for teens and young adults as protection against some strains of the human papillomavirus, which can cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. It is given in a series of 3 shots, ideally starting at age 11-12 years. However, in individuals under age 27, it is still possible to be vaccinated. This should be discussed with a health care provider.
Flu vaccine: College life is characterized by close contacts in dorms, apartments, cafeterias, classrooms/labs, library, etc. When one person gets the flu it’s difficult to avoid its spread. The flu is characterized by sneezing, coughing, dirty tissues… all things that can easily be shared with others as droplets in the air or surfaces touched by someone who is sick. There is a yearly flu vaccine representing weakened viruses of the most common flus of the season, ideally boosting immunity to the flu.
A note on the PPD test: This is a test that involves injecting a small (0.1 ml) amount of weakened tuberculosis toxin under the skin. If one develops a reaction, it indicates that the body has created an antibody response to TB and thus has/had TB or was exposed. In addition, some countries offer a TB vaccine to children (BCG vaccine) which usually leads to a positive PPD result. In anyone with a positive PPD, a chest x-ray is required to rule out active disease. A PPD test is required for those who work in health care settings and many child care settings on a yearly basis.
Immunization exemptions: There are those who choose to not get vaccines based on religious beliefs, health concerns, or fear of side effects. These students are at particular risk should there be an outbreak on campus of a condition that has a vaccine available. Examples of conditions that have had outbreaks in recent years are pertussis, meningitis, and mumps. If there were an outbreak of anything locally, the Alfred University policy is that these individuals would have to leave campus until the outbreak is resolved, for their own safety.
If you have any questions about immunizations and requirements/recommendations, feel free to call the health center.HHS.gov Immunization