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4 min read

Immunization Requirements in Healthcare Higher Education

Immunization tracking blog

Like K-12 schools in the United States, most colleges and universities require certain immunization records during enrollment. Students entering a healthcare-related higher education program, such as nursing, allied health, dentistry, or pharmaceutical studies, usually have a longer list of vaccine requirements than students in other programs.

The administration and healthcare higher ed program staff know all too well that vaccine requirements aren’t simply a yes or no situation. What a student might need to prove compliance with immunization requirements can range from the dosing date to chest x-rays from the student’s doctor.

From that perspective, immunization requirement management for healthcare higher education seems complex. But with the right partner, like Verified Credentials, and a general understanding of why the requirements are in place, managing vaccine records for colleges and universities can become a simple part of the enrollment process.

Who makes immunization requirements for higher ed?

Three primary groups decide what vaccines students need before entering a healthcare education program. On a larger scale, colleges and universities have a high risk for disease outbreaks because students live closely together. Further precautions are typically necessary for students exposed to patients in clinical settings. Altogether, the government, higher education institutions, and institution partners decide to require vaccinations with the health and safety of the students, staff, and the public in mind.

  1. It’s required by state or federal law.The National Conference of State Legislatures lists 40 states that require higher education institution students and faculty to vaccinate against one or more diseases. Many of the required immunizations are typically covered by child wellness visits at a younger age. However, 34 states require college students to get hepatitis B or meningococcal vaccines due to the risk associated with living in a tight community.
  2. Institutions determine the need. – Aside from the vaccines required by law, colleges and universities might implement requirements for others, like annual Influenza vaccines or COVID-19 boosters. However, the enrollment rules vary greatly and are always changing. When students reentered the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine became accessible, most U.S. colleges and universities required their students to be vaccinated. At the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, only about 18% of schools still have a mandate of some sort in place, according to the American Health Association.
  3. Clinical or internship partners may have internal policies. – Many higher education institutions partner with private and public organizations to give their students the on-the-job training they need to graduate. Organizational requirements vary greatly depending on the industry and business needs. The American Nurses Association has a list of recommended vaccines they believe nurses “have a responsibility to be up-to-date on.” If a hospital, clinic, or healthcare system has a vaccination policy for healthcare staff, that will likely apply to student clinicians.

Common immunization requirements and what they protect against

For students, especially those in healthcare programs, immunizations are just a normal part of their enrollment process. These are the most common vaccinations for college students, according to the Minnesota Department of Health:

Disease

Description

Meningococcal Disease

A classification of severe disease caused by a specific bacteria. Infection can include the brain lining and spinal cord, and can lead to death. The CDC states that college students are at a slightly higher risk of infection than younger age groups.

Measles

Often risky for adults than children, it’s very contagious and can be life-threatening. Most U.S. residents are vaccinated as a child.

Mumps

Severe cases can cause hearing loss and sterility in men. Most U.S. residents are vaccinated as a child.

Rubella

Can cause serious birth defects if caught by a pregnant woman. Most U.S. residents are vaccinated as a child.

Tetanus

Caused by bacteria commonly found in dirt, the infection causes muscle spasms so severe that they can stop breathing. Most U.S. residents are vaccinated as a child.

Diphtheria

A serious infection that can cause breathing problems and heart failure that can lead to death. Most U.S. residents are vaccinated as a child.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

A sexually transmitted virus that can lead to serious complications and cancers.

Hepatitis A & B

Highly infectious viruses transmitted through blood or body fluid. The virus can remain infectious for up to a week on surfaces. Depending on the virus, serious symptoms can last several weeks to life.

 

The potentially serious nature and how easily these diseases can spread is a serious concern, especially in communities where students study, work, and live in such tight quarters. Higher ed institutions work hard to make sure their students remain compliant and healthy. But they don’t have to manage it alone.

Staying compliant and keeping track of student immunization records

Immunization records and expirations are just one requirement from a laundry list that institution staff must manage. It might go without saying that this important part of compliance can be time-consuming. However, institutions can simplify their workload with a student requirement management system like Verified Credentials Scholar®. Ideally, a system like this will allow the collection of vaccine records for validation to have students remain compliant with the legal, institutional, and affiliate requirements. Most often, that just requires the immunization name, completion date(s), and any supporting documentation, if required.

Benefits of using a platform designed specifically for healthcare education for immunization compliance might include:

  • Stay on track with built-in notifications – Students get notices if they are missing records needed to keep the process moving. They also receive contact related to compliance expiration.
  • Reduces time on internal data entry – Allowing students to enter their own vaccination records – and upload confirmation documentation – gives the program team more time to focus on critical needs like scheduling clinicals and developing a great curriculum.
  • Reduce clutter with a single management system – Immunizations are one thing, but pairing a collection of vaccine records with the rest of your student requirements can really streamline the process.

Vaccine records might be more than a single dose and expiration

Another benefit of working with a partner specializing in healthcare education requirements is understanding the vast number of ways individuals may remain compliant with vaccine requirements. A platform developed by an experienced team makes it easier for program staff to identify what immunizations are fulfilled. That’s because vaccines often have more than one dose or even the option to provide other medical documentation to show why the immunization isn’t necessary. Depending on the disease, ways to meet vaccine compliance might include:

  • Titer lab report – A blood test that determines the presence of antibody levels and measures them. A positive titer test may indicate that the individual is immune and does not require vaccination. The report must include the test type, values, evaluator signature, and date.
  • Mantoux tuberculin skin test (TST) – An injection and its reaction (or non-reaction) is used to determine if an individual has been infected with TB bacteria. Many healthcare settings require regular testing for TB infections.
  • Chest X-ray – Some institutions may allow results from a chest X-ray to determine the presence of certain bacteria in place of other tests or vaccines.

The institution, affiliates, and the law ultimately determine what is required and accepted. But having a technology partner experienced with the ins and outs of immunizations can be helpful for the already busy college and university program teams.

Verified Credentials has the solutions and experience to support higher education healthcare program requirements, including immunization records. Our proprietary system is innovative, intuitive, and flexible for schools and programs of all sizes. Reach out now to learn why students and schools love Verified Credentials Scholar >>

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