Statement on Legislation Affecting Vaccine Documentation

June 8, 2021

Legislation is now pending in several states barring colleges and universities from requiring any vaccination (including COVID-19) but also, more broadly, restricting the ability to document vaccination status for all vaccine-preventable diseases. Not only do these bills contradict established public health best practices of vaccination requirements for childcare, school, and college attendance, but they endanger public health infrastructure and jeopardize economic security while concurrently resulting in other significant costs. In addition, these bills infringe upon the autonomy of organizations to keep the communities they serve healthy through the proven success of immunization requirements.

COVID-19 provided clear evidence that communicable disease outbreaks can disrupt our day-to-day lives; cause death or chronic illness; and significantly impact commerce, employment, education, travel, and the economy. The current pandemic has stretched local public health systems beyond their operating capacity and created significant risk for state medical infrastructures. Removing the ability to create immunization requirements will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. Those outbreaks will have tangible impacts and require countless person hours and resources and could easily result in loss of life—a preventable loss.

Beyond the human capital elements, campus outbreaks can negatively impact the economic health of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). The fiscal cost of detailed outbreak management, isolation and quarantine housing, and the treatment of complicated sequelae combined with lost tuition, fees, grants, or other funds can be profound for individual institutions. A series of on-going outbreaks could cause IHEs to close, directly impacting the local and state economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the mental health needs of our students due to multiple stressors including family illness and/or death, financial adversity, and loneliness as a result of physical distancing and isolation/quarantine requirements. These emotional and mental health impacts represent an additional cost to the IHE.

As most state laws allow for immunization exemptions (medical, personal belief, and religious) and most businesses allow for flexibility regarding vaccinations, these legislative efforts are of no benefit to any state. This broad overreach devastates accountability, diminishes essential safeguards, and jeopardizes the health of everyone.

Additionally, clear and complete vaccination records are a recognized standard of care. Without vaccination records, patients are at risk for delayed diagnoses, unnecessary medical tests or procedures, and inaccurate or delayed treatment.

Therefore, the American College Health Association opposes any state or federal legislation that would 1) restrict colleges and universities from implementing vaccine requirements or 2) restrict or limit colleges and universities from requiring documentation of vaccination status.