EWU sole public college in Washington to not require measles vaccine

EWU is the only public four-year institution in the state that does not require any vaccinations

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EWU sole public college in Washington to not require measles vaccine

By Kendall Koch, Reporter

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Of the six public four-year colleges in Washington state, EWU is the only school to not require its students to have the measles immunization. While the requirements vary from school to school, all five other schools, including Washington State University and the University of Washington, require the measles vaccine.

The EWU Senior Director of Wellness and Recreation Programs Tricia Hughes has been working for four years to create a policy that requires students to have the MMR vaccination, which helps prevent measles, mumps and rubella, before attending EWU.

“Currently, we are working on a draft policy on immunizations that will go to a vote within the next two months,” Hughes said. “EWU is the only four-year public college in the state of Washington to not require important vaccines.”

EWU has a list of recommended vaccinations for students, however there are no requirements for any particular vaccine.

While other colleges require students to have vaccines completed, like MMR, EWU could be at a possible risk of an outbreak in the event that an unvaccinated student develops a disease like measles.

People can die from a disease we’ve cured which is unacceptable to me.”

— Emma Lengle, pre-dental hygiene major

According to Hughes, if such a measles outbreak did happen here at EWU, the university would be working with the Spokane Regional Health District to track where it originated from within the school.

Hughes, who has extensive experience in public health, said students should be vaccinated in case an outbreak does happen.

“Always be vaccinated, unless for medical reasons, it will help you in the long run,” Hughes said. “Plus, if you catch a serious illness as an adult, the effects are always much worse.”

Hughes said that if someone who has not received the vaccine for MMR attends class while unknowingly sick, the person is putting others at risk.

“Measles is an airborne virus,” Hughes said.  “If someone in a classroom who has measles is coughing and sneezing without using respiratory etiquette, they are not only spreading the germs to those in the classroom at the time, but to the people who use the classroom next are exposed to it.”

EWU is the only four-year public college in the state of Washington to not require important vaccines.”

— Tricia Hughes, senior director of Wellness and Recreation Programs

EWU President Mary Cullinan said in a statement provided to The Easterner that there may be some immunization requirements in the future.

“EWU is in the process of approving a new policy that would require students provide verification of a MMR vaccination or titer unless a student requests a waiver,” Cullinan said.

The policy will be presented before the Board of Trustees for approval in February, according to Cullinan.

Carol Gahl, the director of Student Health for EWU and WSU Spokane Clinical Services, said that measles is not the only serious illness that students should be vaccinated for and be protected against.

“It is recommended by doctors that those about to attend college get the meningitis, hepatitis C and MMR vaccines before moving away,” Gahl said. “If living in a close space, like a residence hall, always be sure to use respiratory etiquette, wash hands well with soap and if you absolutely cannot miss class, wear a mask.”

Emma Lengle, a sophomore and a pre-dental hygiene major, said she worries knowing that her fellow students could be unvaccinated.

“I feel uneasy about this because personally I feel that it is the right thing to do to protect yourself and susceptible people around you,” Lengle said. “In Washington, we have policies that allow you to refuse vaccines for religious and philosophical reasons, so I respect their beliefs and their right to not vaccinate. But in my opinion, I think it’s selfish and dangerous.”

Lengle also discussed how easy it is to prevent a disease.

“People can die from a disease we’ve cured which is unacceptable to me,” Lengle said.

Vaccinations have been a constant hot topic all over social media. Whether it’s  memes regarding how mothers treat a very serious virus with essential oils, or an outbreak of measles in the Clark County area of Washington in the beginning of January this year, controversial vaccination issues are often making headlines.

According to the Oregonian, there have been two confirmed cases of unvaccinated children having measles, along with 11 others who are suspected to have contracted the illness. According to Dr. Alan Melnick, the public health director and officer for Clark County, the outbreak is occurring even though measles is “completely and entirely preventable” with vaccines.

According to the Mayo Clinic, measles can be serious or fatal for small children, and the number of cases in the U.S. has jumped from 60 to 205 cases a year in recent years. The symptoms of measles, when they appear after 10 days, are fever, dry cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes and a skin rash made up of flat blotches that often flow into one another.

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