What Vaccinations Do Students Need Before Starting College?

Health Writer

You might think that once your child is ready to head off to college that immunizations and vaccinations are over. But teens also need immunizations and boosters to vaccines they might have received years ago. If your child is planning to attend college, it's a good idea to contact the school's health center and request a list of required vaccinations, or find out what you must do if your child's vaccines, etc., are not up to date. Then talk to your pediatrician or family doctor.

Samantha Wesner is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner and the director of the Gable Health Center at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. She shared with me information about the immunization requirements at Albright, which currently uses immunization recommendations by the American College Health Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Immunizations, according to Wesner, help keep the entire college community well by limiting the spread of illness.

Recommended vaccinationeasles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): Two doses given 28 days apart meets the requirement.

Polio: One of three primary series is acceptable. The requirement includes either three doses of OPV (oral), four doses of IPV/OPV (injected and oral) sequential, or four doses of IPV.

Varicella: A history of disease, a positive varicella antibody, or two doses of vaccine meets the requirement.

Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis: Primary series of four doses of DTaP, DTP, DT, or Td with a booster every 10 years of Td.

Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV): Three doses of vaccine for females meets the recommendation.

Hepatitis A: Two doses of vaccine meets the recommendation

Hepatitis B: Three doses of vaccine or a reactive Hepatitis B antibody meets the requirement.

Meningococcal Tetravalent: (A,C, Y, W 135) One dose of tetravalent conjugate or tetravalent polysaccharide meets the requirement.

Tuberculosis Screening: High risk students or those residing in high risk countries require a tuberculin skin test. If the result is positive a chest x-ray is required to detect active disease. Treatment is recommended for latent tuberculosis disease and required for active tuberculosis disease.

According to Wesner, students attending Albright must submit proof of immunization or sign a waiver indicating medical or religious reasons why a student has not been immunized. In Wesner’s experience, only a small percentage of students have not been immunized. Some of those without the required vaccinations are international students, who aren’t opposed to the immunizations but do not have the same requirements in their country of origin.

Pennsylvania has enacted legislation requiring that all students residing in a dormitory receive a vaccine for meningococcal disease or submit a written waiver explaining why they have not received the vaccine. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a 50 State Summary of Meningitis Legislation.

Recently, the Meningococcal B vaccine became available. Depending on the immunization your doctor uses, this is either a two or three shot series. While it is recommended that college students receive this vaccine, it is not required.

In addition to the immunization schedule, many health professionals recommend an annual influenza vaccine. The flu can quickly spread in environments like dormitories. The vaccine, while it doesn’t guarantee your teen won’t get the flu, can significantly reduce the chances.

Where to get immunizationsMost students receive immunizations via their family doctor. However, some colleges offer vaccinations, such as the Meningococcal B vaccine or the annual flu shot. You should** check with your child’s college for on campus availability and costs.**

Some colleges charge a per semester fee, usually ranging from $150 to $400 per semester, which includes any health care needed while at college. Immunizations and flu shots might be included. Others, such as Albright, do not have a per semester charge. Instead, students are charged for each visit. In this case, students would need to pay for flu shots, boosters or additional immunizations, although parents can submit the receipt for possible reimbursement from their insurance company.

Keeping records

Once you have gathered immunization records and submitted them to your teen’s college of choice, they have an accessible record should they need it for grad school or internships. Students can keep a copy or request an official copy before leaving school. In addition, many doctors today have online health records. As a patient, you are able to sign up for your doctor’s online portal and have access to all of your health records, including an immunization history.

There are also apps and other online resources for keeping track of your medical records -- but be aware that grad schools and internships might not find this documentation acceptable, and instead need information that is documented by a doctor or health center.

Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.