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Kentucky Group Wants College Students To Update Immunizations

Creative Commons

New students will soon be starting college, and at some Kentucky colleges, that means getting vaccinated. The Kentucky Immunization Coalition — a public private partnership — launched a campaign Monday to convince students and parents that not doing so puts the entire student population at risk for an outbreak.

Three universities in the state require immunizations: The University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University and the University of Louisville. Tracy Kielman, director of the Kentucky Immunization Coalition, says although elementary through high school students in Kentucky are required to be vaccinated, that does not extend to college.

“Hopefully this will push them to do it on their own,” Kielman says.

In 2014, U of L mandated that all incoming freshmen be vaccinated for diseases including Hepatitis B, tuberculosis and meningitis. Phillip Bressoud, executive director of campus health services, says the goal was to make outbreak management more effective.

“Over several years, we’d had situations where we’d had either an outbreak of tuberculosis or chicken pox, and when that happens it’s really difficult to assess who is vaccinated or unvaccinated, and who we need to notify,” Bressoud says.

Bressoud says managing an outbreak includes telling unvaccinated students what to avoid in order to keep an outbreak contained.

Emlyn Riggle, a Louisville native whose daughter attends U of L, says her daughter got a vaccine exemption. Riggle says it’s important for parents to know that’s possible.

“Our schools, our government, our doctors, should not be trying to force us to make a decision that could potentially put us in harm’s way,” she says.  “As an individual we should be able to expose ourselves to measles or mumps. If someone is afraid of getting measles, they should be able to get a vaccination.”

Toxic ingredients in vaccines – from formaldehyde to aluminum – can produce adverse effects, especially if a person is allergic to the ingredient. The federal government reimburses people with known illnesses linked to vaccines, like the measles with anaphylactic shock, or the polio vaccine with paralysis polio.

“Because there are risks involved, an individual must have an opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ Riggle says.

But Bressoud says these conditions are rare as a result of vaccines.

“Vaccinations are designed to protect individuals and groups,” he says. “Even though you may still develop a disease, the severity is less and you don’t spread it as much. There are always failures in vaccines, and that’s why you see some.”

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