By Nicoletta Pappas
Two weeks ago, students were shocked to find one of their classmates had been diagnosed with the mumps. Most children in the United States receive the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine before entering grade school. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the MMR vaccination is 88 percent effective and the diesease can spread quickly through close contact with others, especially on college campuses. Although required by the university, not all college students are vaccinated. Refusing a vaccination allows bacteria and deadly viruses to spread easily, putting both vaccinated and unvaccinated students at severe risk.
UT requires students to have proper immunization records when entering freshman year. Vaccinations become increasingly important especially for residential students, as potential bacteria and viruses can be left behind from previous inhabitants. If these records are not provided, Residence Life does not provide room keys and holds are placed on students’ accounts. An unvaccinated student has not developed enough antibodies to fight against major viruses, leaving their body prey to many forms of sickness. This can potentially have deadly consequences that affect their life and the students around them.
We must be careful whom we force to get immunizations because some individuals don’t believe in the benefits of modern medicine. Forcing them to get a vaccine technically goes against their religious rights, but can have detrimental effects on the rest of the population. It is outlined in the Florida education code that all immunizations from communicable diseases should be documented to the school when enrolling. This statute can be bypassed if the school is presented with a signed request of the parent “stating objections to the examination on religious grounds.”
The state of Florida (as well as the 49 other states) would not have enacted a statute enforcing immunizations if they were not important and effective. One unvaccinated student has a strong chance of contracting a virus and infecting all they come in contact with. Especially with airborne viruses like the mumps, close contact in classrooms and dormitories are breeding grounds for viral infections.
The Dickey Health and Wellness Center allows a student or parent to refuse vaccinations if it contradicts their religious beliefs. The parents of the student sign a formal rejection of immunization and the Florida statute allows the student to remain unvaccinated. There is no testing process or doctor’s approval; the parent or guardian simply refuses the vaccination. While valuing personal religious beliefs, the process of rejecting an immunization should be a more arduous process. The Resident Assistants on each floor should be informed of students’ unvaccinated status in order to take extra precautions. If the RA was informed, it would not be necessary to tell roommates or suitemates lest they may discriminate. Public safety takes front seat and the university’s primary job is to ensure the safety and wellness of the students.
Getting vaccinated reduces your chance of getting yourself, as well as others, severely sick. Proper precautions should be taken by non-vaccinated individuals to reduce the spread of sickness. We may not know who or why someone contracted the mumps, but we can reduce the chances by staying clean and vaccinated. Modern medicine and vaccinations were created for the health and wellness of society and we should all take advantage of it.