UCI Law Prof. Michele Goodwin commends new UC vaccination policy

Feb. 11, 2015

A bold move in the right direction

IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 11, 2015—The University of California (UC) recently announced that as of 2017, incoming students must be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox), meningococcus, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Students must also be screened for tuberculosis.

Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Public Health and Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at UC Irvine School of Law, calls this “a bold move in the right direction.” She urges other colleges and universities “to follow the UC lead.”

The policy was developed based on recommendations from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and in consultation with UC’s student health center directors, vice chancellors for student affairs, and the UC system senior vice president for health sciences and services. UC’s current policy only requires students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, but some individual campuses have additional requirements. UC Irvine, for example, already requires these vaccinations and screenings but allows personal, religious, and medical exemptions. The new UC-wide policy sets a new baseline but allows individual campuses to set higher standards or implement the new policy sooner.

The policy will be phased in, requiring all incoming students in 2016 to show proof of these vaccines and screenings. Using a new electronic medical record platform, UC students will be able to directly enter their vaccination data. UC will begin enforcing the policy in fall 2017 and students who do not meet the requirements will have a hold put on their registration. Professor Goodwin applauds the policy but believes any vaccination program “must include a trust-building component, including education, transparency, and access to unbiased information unaffiliated with pharmaceutical companies, which some believe have ulterior profit motives to push large entities, including states, to mandate vaccines.” Professor Goodwin stresses that there is no reason to believe there are any such issues related to UC’s new policy and hopes “UC can provide a sound model for other state systems and universities to use when considering new vaccine policies.”

Although the policy has been in development for years, it comes at a time when the topic is on many individual’s minds, particularly in California, with many viewing Disneyland amusement park as a primary origin of the recent multi-state measles outbreak. The outbreak likely began when an unvaccinated individual visited Disneyland. As of Friday, February 6, 2015, the CDPH had confirmed 103 cases of measles in the State since December 2014.

The goal of the plan is to prevent future breakouts of vaccine-preventable diseases on UC campuses, which have occurred in the past. The policy could have far-reaching effects, with nearly 250,000 postgraduate and undergraduate students enrolled in across UC’s ten campuses. Goodwin believes this policy will play an important role in “boosting herd immunity on UC campuses and in the surrounding communities where the large UC student population lives and works.”

The new plan currently only applies to new, incoming students, but it may be extended to currently-enrolled students and new vaccinations and other .requirements may be added later. The policy allows exemptions for medical or religious purposes and officials are currently discussing how to handle these requests and what documentation/verification will be required.

CONTACT: Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, UC Irvine School of Law
(949) 824-3897
(773) 543-6160 (cell)