ACC Departments Join Forces to Manage Student Immunization Requirement

ACC departments collegewide have been working continuously since last summer to help students comply with the new state law requiring that they be immunized for bacterial meningitis or provide an exemption request declining the vaccine.

Beginning January 2012, all new students under age 30 entering a Texas college or university must provide proof they have had the meningitis immunization at least 10 days before the start of classes, or show they are exempt by following procedures defined by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

At ACC, prospective students cannot register for classes until they submit proof they have been immunized or are exempt. Current impacted students have a hold placed on their record that prevents them from registering for classes until they submit the necessary documentation.

“This has been a challenge for students and our staff,” says Dr. Kathleen Christensen, vice president of student support and success systems. “It has required a coordinated effort between many departments to ensure student compliance.”

Since last September, ACC’s Student Services and Public Information and College Marketing have regularly notified impacted students about the requirement through email, the college website, social media, and traditional mail. An immunization information webpage details the steps students must take and the types of documentation needed. New ACC applicants receive weekly email reminders about the requirement.

As of May 14 more than 12,000 students had submitted the necessary documentation, with submissions increasing by almost 1,000 per day during the month. Still, the new law likely has impacted summer registration, which is down between 6 and 7 percent collegewide from 2011.

The number of students submitting documentation has risen by almost 1,000 per day during May.

Christensen says that while students have said they are aware of the requirement, many cannot afford the immunization. Retail pharmacies and walk-in clinics generally charge between $100 and $200 per vaccine, which may be covered if a student has health insurance. County health departments offer the shot for as little as $10, however, they have limited supply and don’t always have the vaccine on hand.

Other students may still be unsure whether the requirement applies to them, or do not know how to submit the necessary documentation. In response, the college has taken several steps to simplify the process and provide one-on-one assistance as needed.

Students who need to submit their proof of immunization can go to the Student Services office at any campus. Student Services has hired or redirected additional staff to assist with the process. Staff members can help students log in to the Magnus Health SMR website and create an account for submitting their documentation. ACC has partnered with Magnus Health to provide a secure portal for collecting meningitis documents and verifying compliance with the law.

Students wanting to be immunized can visit ACC’s immunization webpage to find contact information for several providers, including area health departments. The college also hosted Walgreens immunization clinics at each campus throughout April.

Finally, students choosing to submit an exemption can go to the Student Services office at any campus where staff will help them download and photocopy the necessary forms. The college has enlisted notary publics at all campuses to process the exemption documents.

Faculty and staff wanting to help students can review the immunization information webpage to become familiar with the compliance options, including the steps students must take to create a Magnus Health account and remove the registration hold on their record. Instructors also should encourage students to check their ACCmail regularly for updates about the requirement and any important college communications.

“The first step in ensuring our students’ success is making sure this requirement doesn’t impede their ability to continue at ACC,” Christensen says. “We are committed to doing everything we can to make the process as simple as possible for students.”

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