Freshmen who have not received three Hepatitis B shots will not be allowed to register for classes Spring Quarter because of a California law requiring all students 18 or younger on Oct. 1, 2000, to be immunized against the disease.
The law – an added provision to the California Health and Safety Code – was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2000, but did not apply to the University of California until October. The immunization is given in a series of three injections, which Student Health Service encourages students to take with a month between the first and second injections and a six-month gap before the third. The vaccination process began in summer orientation, but many students have not followed up on their injections and now face a registration block for next quarter.
"We’ve been swamped with students who were due. We had to block their registration. We’ve had droves of kids coming in," said Nancy Gustafson, SHS Clinic Coordinator. "We’re still getting more now."
SHS offers vaccinations for $30 a shot and recently sent out approximately 600 letters to students who had not taken all three shots.
"I have had the first two shots already, and I have a block on my schedule," freshman psychology major Lindsay Massar said. "I think it’s kind of strange how they force you to do it. I understand they don’t want people to get sick, but it’s really annoying."
Undeclared freshman Betty Plascencia said, "I didn’t really think about it. I found out yesterday when I went online to see my [registration] times, and it said there that I had to come to Student Health. I think it’s a good idea. If it doesn’t harm anyone, why not?"
Although Gustafson said she recommends getting the shots, they are not required for students who are 19 or over.
"There is a way for students to opt out. I’m not promoting it, as it’s a good immunization to have, but they can sign an exemption form if they come in and see us," she said.
Hepatitis B, one of five forms of the Hepatitis virus, can cause short-term illness with symptoms ranging from tiredness and muscle pain to jaundice and diarrhea. It can also be chronic, resulting in liver damage and possible death. Over one million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis B-virus infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Each year it is estimated that the virus infects 200,000 people, mostly young adults. The CDC said the disease could be as much as 100 times more contagious than HIV. Like the HIV virus, Hepatitis is spread through bodily fluids, but the CDC said one third of Hepatitis B cases in the United States have an unknown source.
The vaccine is genetically engineered and side effects are rare. "It’s not a live vaccine, and it’s been proven safe," Gustafson said.
For further information about the vaccinations, visit the Student Health website at www.sa.ucsb.edu/StudentHealth/HepatitisB.htm or call 893-8484.