From LRC Press Office
FRANKFORT—Whooping cough. Measles. Meningitis. Just hearing these words can strike fear in most any parent or school teacher.
But it’s not just young school children who are at risk. College and university students can also get communicable diseases says Dr. Patty Swiney, a Kentucky family physician and mother who testified alongside House Health and Welfare Chair Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, today in support of Wuchner’s House Bill 147. The bill would require students to submit proof of immunization against measles, mumps, rubella and meningococcal disease before enrolling at Kentucky public or private colleges or universities with residential campuses starting this fall.
HB 147, also sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a pharmacist, passed the House Health and Welfare Committee and now goes to the House floor for consideration.
Swiney said college students living in close quarters like dormitories are susceptible to communicable diseases which are “vaccine-preventable.”
“They live, eat and, we all hope, study in close quarters,” said Swiney, but they are likely to write off illness symptoms as fatigue from too much studying or something else. She mentioned an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in 2015 in which 147 people were infected by “a single, non-vaccinated person.”
“Luckily there were no deaths, but a significant number of work and school days were missed… and all of this was preventable,” said Swiney.
Wuchner, a trained nurse, said HB 147 would exempt students who object to medical vaccination on religious grounds in a written sworn statement. It would also exempt students enrolled only in online or other distance-learning classes. Others, she explained, would have to receive what she called “catch-up” immunizations to protect themselves and those around them.
“As a nurse, I have strong memories of the first case of meningococcal meningitis that I ever encountered, and they will stay with you forever,” she said.