by Jack Stubbs
In mid-February, The Ohio State University (OSU) made it a requirement that all students, except for those with religious, philosophical or medical convictions, must be vaccinated. OSU’s mandate may not spur a change in Kenyon’s own policy, but it has prompted conversations about immunizations on campus.
“College health is always changing, but OSU is doing something very bold and proactive with their new policy about immunizations,” President of the Ohio College Health Association and Director of the Kenyon Health Center Kim Cullers said.
OSU implemented the policy after a large-scale mumps outbreak last spring. “The mumps outbreak started on OSU’s campus at a fraternity,” Cullers said. “It ended up infecting not only the campus but the city of Columbus as well, and spread throughout surrounding counties,” Cullers said. Immunizations are essential for protecting a school’s student body and surrounding community.
Cullers asserts that each individual college has the responsibility to make its own vaccination policies, although they do receive recommendations.
“The ACHA [American College Health Association] is the governing body for all colleges in the country,” Cullers said. “They issue recommendations for how each school should make their own immunization policies.” Each school receives recommendations by the ACHA and devises its own vaccination policy, but also has to follow state laws.
Kenyon’s policy is similar to those of several peer institutions, in the sense that Kenyon requires its incoming first years to have received four immunizations, for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B, while eight others are “strongly recommended by the state of Ohio,” according to Cullers. For example, at the College of Wooster some vaccinations are required and others are simply recommended: “We require two MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) dates for all students,” Esther Horst, head nurse at the College of Wooster, said. “We highly suggest tetanus every 10 years.”
Cullers believes Kenyon students are mostly all vaccinated.
“We find that most of our students have taken all of the required and optional vaccinations as well,” she said.
The size of the institution also has a bearing on the effectiveness of vaccinations. “Generally, I think the vaccination policy [at Kenyon] is pretty effective,” Graeme Taylor ’18 said. “However, because Kenyon is such a small campus, I think more research needs to be done on certain illnesses that spread really quickly, such as the ‘Krud.’”
The debate regarding whether or not vaccinations should be required rages on. “It’s a little worrisome that some of the other shots are not required,” Zoe Frazier ’16 said. “Some diseases might spread really quickly without vaccinations.”
Considering these factors, the conversation about vaccination policies at Kenyon is more relevant than ever. However, it won’t necessarily cause Kenyon to amend or alter its own policy about vaccinations. “I wouldn’t make any changes [to the policy] unless nationally or regionally I see that there’s a strong push to make the policies more enforceable,” Cullers said. But, the she says that the “Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan [University], Denison [University], Oberlin [College] and Kenyon all meet regularly to … compare current policies and review the current healthcare guidelines,” Cullers said. For the foreseeable future, Cullers says Kenyon’s vaccination policy won’t change. There will still be four required vaccinations along with several optional — but highly encouraged — vaccinations.