I’m in college, why do I still need vaccines?

Mother helping daughter unpack car for college, BeijingThere are a number of vaccines students need to consider talking to their doctor about receiving before heading off to college.

We recommend that all college students up to age 21 receive at least one dose of quadravalent vaccine between ages 16-18. Parents should consider having their child get the new serogroup B meningococcal vaccine between 16-18 years of age which has recently become available. Both the quadravalent and newer serogroup B meningitis vaccines are available at UofL’s Campus Health Service.

Individuals between the ages of 16-23 have the highest rates of meningococcal disease with the exception of 1-year-olds. College students who are housed in dormitories or live in close contact are at especially high risk for meningococcal meningitis and should be vaccinated with at least one dose of quadravalent (serogroup A, C, Y and W-135) vaccine after age 16.

Unfortunately, the quadravalent vaccine doesn’t provide any protection against serogroup B meningitis which is the most common strain identified in college students. There have been several highly publicized serogroup B meningococcal meningitis outbreaks the last couple of years at Princeton and University of California-Santa Barbara.

Although bacterial meningitis due to Neisseria meningitidis is extremely rare, there is a 10-15 percent chance of dying despite modern treatments. Those that survive can have brain damage, blindness and loss of limbs. 

Benefits of vaccination against bacterial meningitis include reduction of the actual disease, transmission, carrier states and long term problems such as brain damage, loss of limbs and blindness. UofL is currently considering adding the new meningitis type B vaccine to its requirements for 2017-2018.

The University of Louisville was the first state-funded university in Kentucky to require immunizations for incoming freshmen. We currently require the following vaccinations:

Required at UofL:

  • Tdap: 1 dose of Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Acellular Pertussis) within the last 10 years.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella: 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B: 3 doses of vaccine.
  • Chickenpox (varicella): 2 doses of vaccine.
  • Tuberculosis screening questionnaire with targeted testing in high risk individuals.

Optional vaccines:

  • Influenza: Free to all UofL faculty, staff and students each year. Available in early September each year. Studies have shown that students who get a flu shot are less likely to have a GPA decrease over the semester.
  • Hepatitis A: 2 or 3 doses depending upon if combined with Hepatitis B vaccine.

Condition-specific vaccines:

  • Pneumococcal vaccine is indicated in certain high risk groups such as smokers, asthmatics, sickle cell disease or individuals who have had their spleen removed or have cochlear implants.

This is the first of a three-part series. Read part-two: How to have a healthy freshman year. Read part-three: Enjoy college by reducing stress


If you need a physician, visit www.uoflphysicians.com/patient-care/find-physician or request an appointment online at www.uoflphysicians.com/request-appointment.

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About Phillip Bressoud, M.D.

Dr. Phillip Bressoud is the executive director for Campus Health Services and associate professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville. He serves as the physician champion for electronic medical records at UofL Physicians. He received his bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Kentucky and his medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at UofL and served as chief resident prior to joining the faculty. He is board-certified in internal medicine and holds a certificate in clinical informatics. He currently is the governor of the Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

All posts by Phillip Bressoud, M.D.