In an effort to fight the ongoing measles outbreak, the University of California network will require all incoming students to get vaccinated for measles and a range of other diseases, UC announced Friday. Currently, students are required to be vaccinated only for hepatitis B, with some additional requirements on different campuses.
Beginning in 2017, UC will expand this mandate, it said in a statement. All incoming students also will have to documentation showing they have had tuberculosis screening and four other vaccines. These vaccines are the ones for chicken pox; measles, mumps and rubella; meningococcus; and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, aka whooping cough.
The decision will affect about 233,000 students in the statewide university network. Although officials said the new rules have been in the works for the past year, the move comes as California, the focal point of the nationwide measles outbreak, faces increasing pressure to stem the spread of the disease. The recent outbreak originated in Disneyland in December, before spreading to several other states.
Many other college campuses in the state have no requirement for students to get immunizations to enroll. Since the recent outbreak began, students on three California college campuses -- California State University at Channel Islands, California State University at Long Beach and Moorpark College -- have reportedly contracted the disease.
State officials also are mulling ways to encourage immunizations. Lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would eliminate religious or personal-belief exemptions for parents who do not want to vaccinate children before they start school. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2012 keeping the religious exemptions in place, but signaled this week that he might be open to restricting the waivers.
Measles had been declared eliminated in 2000. However, the disease broke out again in Ohio in 2014, infecting 383 people within unvaccinated Amish communities. But that episode stayed largely contained in those communities. Since the December outbreak at Disneyland, there have been 103 confirmed cases of measles in California. Fifty-nine percent of the cases occurred in adults at least 20 years old, according to the California Department of Public Health.