All About Vaccines

Vaccination is a safe and effective way for people to stay healthy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations from birth through adulthood to provide a lifetime of protection against many serious diseases and infections. Yet many individuals are not vaccinated as recommended, leaving them needlessly vulnerable to illness and long-term suffering.

Many vaccinations are recommended for children, so most college students have already been vaccinated. If your student has not yet received all of the recommended vaccines, there is still time! Students can be vaccinated before starting college or at the center after they arrive on campus, if their college offers this option.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s a good idea to be vaccinated:

  • Vaccines are safe and effective. Many vaccines have been used for many years and have been proven to be safe and effective. Any side effects that vaccines might cause are usually a much smaller risk compared to the diseases themselves. For the most part, side effects are minor (e.g., a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days.
  • Vaccines do not cause the disease they are designed to prevent; getting a vaccine does not cause someone to “catch” the disease. Vaccines contain either a “killed” virus or a live but weakened virus; it is not possible to get the disease from either of those types of vaccine.
  • Young people can get sick, too, including healthy college students. Getting vaccinated can help reduce this risk.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are still around. Diseases that were common before there were vaccines to prevent them, such as whooping cough, measles, and mumps, are still around and still infecting people. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of becoming infected and spreading disease.

Listen to one mother talk about her 18-year-old daughter’s battle with meningitis.

Community Immunity

Community immunity is the idea that if a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated (90-95% for some infections), it will make it nearly impossible for a vaccine-preventable disease to spread. There are some people who are not able to receive vaccines, either because they are too young or because of medical reasons. Community immunity can make it safer for those individuals—if enough people are vaccinated, the risk of transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases is much lower. This is another reason why vaccinations are so important—you are helping to protect those who are not able to be vaccinated. You’re not just protecting your health—you’re protecting the health of others. It’s a win-win!

What Vaccines Does My Student Need?

Your student should be up-to-date on all recommended vaccines before they start school. Your student’s school may require certain vaccines prior to enrollment. Immunization requirements are often dictated by state laws, which is why school requirements may vary.

  • Work with your student to find out what vaccines their school requires, usually listed on the health enrollment/health history form. Also find out where your student will need to submit proof of vaccination. If the school has a student health center, the website may have additional information, as well.
  • Have your student contact their primary care provider (PCP) to see if they are up to date on vaccines that the school requires and request a copy of the vaccine record (have your student make two copies of their vaccine record: one to have for their personal records and a copy for your family to have). Most schools want the student to upload a copy of their vaccine record to their health portal, or have the PCP sign the health form that includes vaccination information, rather than accepting a travel vaccination card.
  • Have your student make an appointment with their PCP to get any vaccines still needed months before the school year begins to give them enough time to receive vaccines they may need but have not yet received. At some schools, required immunizations can be obtained from the student health center (usually for a fee or charge submitted to a health insurance plan), but in most cases, your student will need to be fully vaccinated before they arrive on campus or shortly after (based on your school’s policy) to avoid having a stop placed on registration for students who are not in compliance.
  • Is your student is having trouble obtaining their immunization records? More information about locating proof of vaccination can be found here: How to locate your vaccination records.
  • Work with your student to submit their health form and immunization record by the deadline.
  • Your student may be granted an exemption from your school’s immunization requirements due to medical reasons. Others may give an exemption for philosophical or religious beliefs. Check with your student’s school to see if this is an option and for the requirements for requesting an exemption.

Below are vaccines that may be recommended for college students:

Chickenpox (Varicella)

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

Influenza (Flu)

Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)

Meningitis ACWY

Meningitis B

Pneumococcal Disease


Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a link between autism and vaccines?
No. Research has proven that there is no link between autism and vaccines. Vaccines and the ingredients found in vaccines do not cause autism. The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2011 showing that eight common vaccines (including MMR, meningococcal, HPV, and hepatitis B) are safe and effective and do not cause autism. CDC provides additional information on their website, as does the Autism Science Foundation.

Can someone get a disease even if they have been vaccinated?
According to CDC, it is rare, but it could happen. Sometimes, giving an additional dose can increase immunity. Some vaccines require booster injections, such as tetanus. There may also be times that someone is exposed to a disease before they are able to be vaccinated against it; this often happens with the flu, which is why it seems like the vaccine causes the flu in people (which it does not).

I am not able to afford these vaccines. Are there other options?
If someone has health insurance, most vaccines should be free since they are considered preventive health care. Health departments or other publicly funded clinics may offer free or reduced cost vaccines (CDC). In addition, the student health center at your student’s institution may provide free or reduced cost vaccines.