Catching up on 17 Years Worth of Vaccinations to Attend College

With the passage of California’s new vaccination law, it is not just kids in daycare, kindergarten, and high school who have to be up-to-date on their immunizations.

“If I chose to attend Berkeley, I would have to catch up on 17 years worth of vaccinations.”

Madeline Scott

Many California universities strengthened their immunization requirements at about the same time as SB 277 passed.

Does that really mean that an unvaccinated, incoming freshman would have to get 17 years worth of vaccinations?

How To Catch Up On Missing Immunizations

Of course not. Teens don’t really need to get 17 years worth of vaccinations to get caught up, even if they had never had a single vaccine before.

Why not?

They are too old for some vaccines, like those for rotavirus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (Prevnar).

And because they are starting so late, they would get fewer doses of a few vaccines, so most older teens could get fully caught up after getting just:

  • 1 dose of MCV4 (a meningococcal vaccine)
  • 2 or 3 doses of MenB (a meningococcal vaccine)
  • 2 doses of MMR
  • 2 doses of the chicken pox vaccine
  • 1 dose of Tdap, followed by 3 doses of Td (instead of the standard 5 doses of DTaP vaccine that younger children get, which is followed by a Tdap booster at age 12 years)
  • 2 doses of HepA
  • 3 doses of HepB
  • 3 doses of IPV (instead of the standard 4 doses of polio vaccine that younger children get)
  • 3 doses of HPV vaccine
  • a flu shot

How quickly could they get caught up?

Probably in about 8 months – the minimal interval between all of the Tdap/Td doses. Most of the rest of the vaccines can be given over a 6 month interval or even quicker.

Catching up on 17 Years Worth of Vaccinations to Attend College

Surprisingly, the University of California at Berkeley actually requires very few of these immunizations for new students though.

Students at Berkeley are much more likely to march for science than against it.
Students at Berkeley are much more likely to march for science than against it.

The only vaccines that are required include:

  • two doses of MMR
  • two doses of the chicken pox vaccine
  • one dose of the MCV4 meningococcal vaccine
  • one dose of Tdap

Using the combination vaccine ProQuad (MMR and chicken pox together), that could mean as few as 4 shots instead of “17 years worth of vaccinations.”

Of course, that leaves the student unprotected against a lot of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Other vaccines that are recommended, but not required, include those that can protect students against flu, hepatitis B, MenB, HPV, hepatitis A, polio, and pneumococcal bacteria (if high risk).

More On College Vaccine Requirements

Updated November 25, 2018

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