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UT Austin To Require Incoming Students To Have Measles Vaccination

Gabriel C. Pérez

Incoming UT Austin students will need to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against measles starting this fall, according to  University Health Services.

The new requirement does not apply to students currently in classes or those enrolling this spring or summer. 

UT made the decision last fall, after seeing upticks in measles across the U.S., according to Sherry Bell, interim communications manager for UHS and UT Counseling and Mental Health Services. In 2019, the U.S. saw the greatest number of  measles cases since 1992, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The university wants to keep students healthy and in class, not missing class due to a preventable disease like measles,” Bell said. 

UT made the decision to require the vaccination before the recent  measles and  rubella cases that were confirmed in Travis County, Bell said. It was the first time someone had been diagnosed with either disease since 1999. 

UT already requires students 21 and younger to provide evidence they’ve had a  meningococcal vaccine, as required by state law. But previously, UT required only international students to provide evidence they’d been vaccinated against measles as well. Bell said the added requirement for international students has existed for a while, since some diseases are more prevalent in other countries than they are in the U.S.

"But now we're seeing upticks here," she said.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. Doctors typically administer the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine when children are 12 to 15 months old, and a booster shot is then given between ages 4 and 6. 

Health officials  say the vaccination rate in Austin and Travis County is relatively high, but “there are pockets of communities where vaccination opt-outs bring herd immunity to an unstable status.” 

UT students can get  exemptions from vaccines for medical reasons if they provide a certificate signed by a doctor or due to reasons of conscience, like religious reasons. But health officials encourage vaccinations so people can be protected from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

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Marisa Charpentier joined KUT as a digital producer in January 2020. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Plan II Honors in 2018, she worked as a reporter for Community Impact Newspaper, covering the Central Texas communities of Cedar Park and Leander.