New immunization rules for on-campus residents

Kim Thompson

Students renewing their on-campus housing contracts for next year will find a new section to the application. This year, it includes a disclosure statement asking applicants if they’ve been immunized for meningococcal meningitis and hepatitis B.

The disclosure statement on the housing application is required, according to a bill passed by the Ohio Legislature last year.

Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services, said, “It requires that before a student can live in university housing, they must disclose to us whether they have been vaccinated.”

Joseph said the disclosure statement is included in the online application.

The bill does not require students to be immunized, but if they mark on the application that they have been immunized, the date of the vaccination must be provided.

Mary Reeves, director of University Health Services, said the disclosure statement, like all of students’ health information, is private.

If a student contracted either of the diseases, Reeves said her staff would determine who the student’s most recent contacts were and report the case to the Health Department as required by law.

Reeves said she thinks the bill came about because of the belief the diseases are more easily transmitted in residence halls. She added that she doesn’t feel people should be forced to be immunized, but they should be educated about the diseases.

“I think that education about meningitis is just as important as the vaccine,” Reeves said. “I believe that people should be informed of the risks and benefits and then make a decision.”

She said the problem with meningitis comes from people who don’t know much about the disease and end up being treated too late.

“The symptoms mimic the flu,” Reeves said. “People think it’s a flu-like episode that they’re going to get over.”

She said vaccinations are available at DeWeese Health Center. The price of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine is $90, and the price of the hepatitis B vaccine is $25, which Reeves said includes only a small markup over the cost of the vaccines to the Health Center.

“Our intent is not to make a profit,” Reeves said. “Basically, it’s just a small percentage above cost.”

Kathleen Chandler, representative for Portage County, co-sponsored the bill. Chandler said she supported the bill because studies have indicated that people in the 15-24 age range are at the greatest risk for these diseases.

“It’s a tragedy when a young person becomes ill with a disease that could have been prevented,” Chandler said. “Both of them can be prevented through vaccination.”

Chandler said the bill also requires the Ohio Department of Health to make information about the diseases available on its Web site.

Contact medicine reporter Kim Thompson at [email protected].