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Immunization requirements of the top 200 universities: Implications for vaccine-hesitant families

Noesekabel, Allison, Fenick, Ada M.
Vaccine 2017 v.35 no.29 pp. 3661-3665
demographic statistics, funding, issues and policy, pediatricians, universities, vaccination, vaccines
The majority of pediatricians encounter vaccine hesitancy in their practices. As part of a broad discussion about vaccination, school requirements arise as a topic yet providers may lack information about the effects of immunization on university matriculation.We surveyed the top-ranked 200 universities regarding required immunizations, medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions, and noncompliance policies. We examined the legal requirements for involved jurisdictions.Of 129 responding universities (64%), 94% had ≥1 pre-matriculation immunization requirement (PIR), with a mean of 3.53 (95%CI 3.17–3.89) requirements. In unadjusted analyses, funding, region, jurisdictional requirements, undergraduate size, and tuition were significant predictors of the number of PIRs. In multivariate modeling, jurisdictional requirements outperformed all other university demographics, but excluding these, Northeast and South region and smaller undergraduate size persisted. The most common PIR was measles (93%). 67% of involved jurisdictions have laws mandating ≥1 university PIR, and 45% of universities surpassed their jurisdiction’s law. With respect to medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions, 24%, 40%, and 60% of universities with PIRs had the highest hardship category, and 2%, 2%, and 46% disallowed these outright. Frequent responses to student noncompliance were: hold on classes (89%), additional registration fees (13%), and hold on housing (11%).Requirements for pre-matriculation immunizations in top universities are common and exemptions are difficult to obtain. Conversations between providers and vaccine-hesitant families may be enriched by discussion of these future effects of their decision on immunization.