What is the worst that could happen? We often ask ourselves this question before making reckless decisions.
We’re often willing to forgo our own safety for brief moments of fun, but what about matters of health? What about the safety of others?
The use of vaccinations to prevent infectious, otherwise preventable diseases begs that we ask this question. What is the worst that could happen?
That depends on one factor, according to Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Brenda Rogers: what kind of vaccination is administered.
Vaccinations function in one of two ways. Active vaccines contain a miniscule amount of the bacteria they intend to combat and carry the risk of infection. Inactive vaccines contain the strongest part of the bacteria they combat without the risk of infection.
“With the active vaccines, you have the chance of getting a very minor form of the illness,” Rogers said. “Everything has a risk to it, so there’s a risk that you could have some devastating outcome. When I talk to my patients, I talk to them about how their risk of being in a fatal car accident is higher than your risk from a vaccine.”
With the recent measles epidemic in California, we’ve seen the effects of an outbreak of a preventable disease.
When travelers suffering from a preventable illness like measles enter a community, they bring with them the risk of infection.
If as little as 10 percent of the population is unvaccinated, the disease can spread like wildfire. A single infected person contributed to at least 145 cases of infection in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015.
However, Rogers believes that UMKC is prepared to deal with a situation like that.
“I have worked some with the Student Health & Wellness center, [and] I completely trust them,” Rogers said. “The encounters that I have had with them, they have been phenomenal about taking care of patients and students. I think if something horrible happened on campus, they would be completely on top of it.”
UMKC requires “high risk” students to be immunized. These are identified as residence hall and international students as well as those enrolled in the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.
According to Rogers, vaccinations are very important for a community like UMKC, regardless of the associated risks.
“You guys are in close quarters with each other in a risky population. Meaning you are more susceptible to being ill,” Rogers said. “[Students] get sick and pass respiratory illnesses around. They don’t wash their hands or carry hand sanitizer. And then when you put them in a residence hall it becomes even more risky.”
While students are aware of their own health, they cannot be aware of their roommate’s or other students’ health. Vaccinations ensure that students are protected when exposed to others who may be ill.
The prevention of illnesses that are detrimental to the community relies on regular vaccinations for the majority of the population.
While some may choose to opt out of receiving their vaccinations on religious grounds, Rogers offers up her own theory.
“In working with patients for a long time, it is typically the non-traditional, non-mainstream religions that have this concern,” Rogers said. “A lot of times I’ve found that when you really get down to what their concerns are though, they’re really not religious as they are widespread-rumor based.”
Rogers recommends examining a variety of resources before deciding whether to receive vaccinations. She suggests getting information from a nationally respected source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an international source like British and Japanese immunization websites, as well as a third unaffiliated source of your choosing.
Students seeking vaccination at UMKC are in luck. Both Student Health and Wellness and the School of Medicine offer a variety of vaccinations. These include both Hepatitis A and B, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, human papilloma virus and the flu.
Flu vaccinations have a small cost of $15 which can be paid by cash, check or credit and can even be charged to your student account.