Updated vaccinations are key to good college health

While purchasing all the necessary back to school supplies in the coming weeks, incoming college students may also want to update their vaccination records. Being vaccinated is a simple way to prevent several controllable infectious illnesses, says an expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Alan Glass
Alan Glass

“When you go away to college, you transition into an environment where you potentially live in close quarters with other people, making it a lot easier to contract a number of illnesses,” says Alan Glass, M.D., assistant vice chancellor and director of the university’s Habif Health and Wellness Center and president-elect of the American College Health Association (ACHA).

A full list of vaccines recommended for all college-age students can be found on the ACHA Web site at www.acha.org/info_resources/RIPIstatement.pdf.

While having an updated vaccination record is recommended, the only vaccine required at most U.S. schools is the measles vaccine. Some universities also require a meningitis vaccine, Glass says.

“For many of us, vaccines are just something we get without giving it a second thought,” he says. “You start receiving them as an infant because your parents know you are supposed to be vaccinated.”

And while vaccines may seem less important to a college student than getting the latest laptop computer or signing up for the right classes, they are extremely important.

“Most students will have had most of the vaccines on the ACHA list because elementary and secondary schools require those vaccines to be enrolled,” Glass says. “Before they arrive on campus, students need to decide whether they should receive a meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV) and influenza vaccine.

The flu vaccine is recommended for college-age people because there can be a number of significant consequences of the flu, and being ill for an extended period of time during college can have some pretty significant academic impact.”

While the ACHA has made no official recommendations regarding vaccinating college students against the H1N1 swine flu at this point, the group is encouraging people to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and their local health departments as the vaccination becomes more widely available, Glass says.

He says that college-age students will be on the priority list for the swine flu vaccine, along with pregnant women, people who care for young children and health-care workers.