Immunizations Overview and Requirements
Immunizations offer safe and effective protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. The United States is experiencing a re-emergence of many diseases, in part due to factors such as non-immunized and under-immunized persons and global travel. Penn State, along with University Health Services, strongly supports the use of immunizations to protect the health of individual students and the campus community as a whole.
Incoming Degree-Seeking Students
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
To satisfy Penn State immunization requirements, students must provide proof of:
- Two doses of Measles (Rubeola), two doses of Mumps, and one dose of Rubella OR
- Two doses of the MMR immunization OR
- Results from a blood test showing immunity
The first dose must have been given on or after the student's first birthday. Dose two must have been given at least four weeks after dose one.
Students Living in University Housing
In addition to the MMR requirement, all students living in University housing must supply proof of the Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4): also known as Menveo, Menactra, MenQuadfi. This immunization is effective against the most common meningococcal infections caused by serogroups A, C, W, and Y. One dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine administered at age 16 or older is required. Students may request an exemption from this requirement by completing the Meningococcal Immunization Waiver if there is a medical contraindication to immunization, or if religious or philosophical beliefs prohibit immunization. Meningococcal B (Bexsero and Trumenba) does not satisfy this requirement.
Other Recommended Immunizations
Meningococcal Vaccine (MenB)
Also known as Bexsero or Trumenba. This immunization is effective against most of the more common meningococcal infections caused by serogroup B. These immunizations are given in a series of either two or three injections and are not interchangeable. (Note: This immunization alone does not satisfy the Meningococcal Housing Requirement)
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Two doses of varicella (chicken pox) immunization are needed for immunity. The doses must be administered at least 28 days apart. OR a blood test confirming immunity if you have had the chicken pox disease.
One dose of Tdap (tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis, NOT to be confused with DTap or Td) immunization is needed for immunity. A Td immunization booster is also needed if it has been greater than ten years since the Tdap was administered.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through body fluids, including blood. Three doses of Hepatitis B immunization are needed for immunity. Doses one and two must be administered at least four weeks apart. Dose three should be at least six months after the first dose and eight weeks after dose two. A blood test may be used to confirm immunity.
Hepatitis A Vaccine (HepA)
HepA vaccine is a 2-dose series given 6-18 months apart. In some cases, Hep A and Hep B are given as a combined immunization, which would necessitate that 3 doses are needed for immunity.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Three different immunization have been used in the U.S. [Cervarix (bivalent HPV vaccine), Gardasil (Quadrivalent HPV vaccine), Gardasil-9 (9-valent HPV vaccine)]; all three are given in a 3-dose series and are needed for immunity.
13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PVC13) or 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Recommended for students with certain medical risk factors or high risk of pneumococcal disease.
COVID-19 first & second doses
COVID-19 immunization teaches our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes two weeks after immunization for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. People are considered fully protected two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 immunization, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 immunization.
The University urges students to receive a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible.
Sharing immunization information enables University Health Services to provide the best possible care to students when the need arises. We encourage students to upload COVID-19 immunization records to improve confidence in Penn State’s ability to provide a safe campus environment and to, potentially, exempt fully vaccinated students from certain health and safety protocols, such as quarantine. Find more information on how to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Frequently Asked Questions about Immunizations
- How much do immunizations cost?
Students with the Student Health Insurance plan (SHIP) for Penn State are fully covered for required immunizations. If you do not have the Student Health Insurance for Penn State, please check with your health insurance carrier to see what immunizations are covered and how you can be reimbursed if you receive the immunizations at University Health Services, your campus health center, or a local provider's office.
- Why is a meningococcal vaccine important?
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitides. Meningococcal disease usually presents clinically as meningitis or bacteremia. Serogroups A, B, C, W, and Y cause almost all meningococcal disease cases. Four of these strains are contained in the quadrivalent (A, C, W, Y) vaccine. Incidence of meningococcal disease peaks among adolescents and young adults aged sixteen through twenty one years. First-year college students living in residence halls are at higher risk for meningococcal disease than other students.
- What are the specific requirements for the meningococcal vaccine?
The College and University Student Vaccination Act of 2002 in Pennsylvania prohibits a student from residing in University housing unless the student has received a one-time vaccination against meningococcal disease, or the institution provides detailed information on the risks associated with meningococcal disease and the availability and the effectiveness of any vaccine. The student must also sign a written waiver stating that the student has received and reviewed the information provided and has chosen not to be vaccinated for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that first-year college students living in residence halls should receive at least 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) before college entry. The preferred timing of the most recent dose is on or after their sixteenth birthday and persons aged twenty-one years should have documentation of receipt of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine not more than five years before enrollment.
In accordance with the College and University Student Vaccination Act and ACIP, all students who will be living in University housing must submit proof of one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine that covers serogroups A, C, Y, and W since age sixteen. Students may request an exemption from this requirement if there is a medical contraindication to vaccination or if religious or philosophical beliefs prohibit immunization. The Meningococcal B vaccine (serogroup B) is a separate vaccine and is strongly recommended, although not mandatory at this time.
- What if I am unable to receive the MMR vaccine due to a philosophical, religious, or medical reason or condition?
Print a copy of the MMR Waiver Request Form and have it completed and signed by your healthcare provider. Requests for philosophical exemptions must include a detailed written statement of personal beliefs. Requests for religious exemptions must include a detailed written statement of personal beliefs or a letter from clergy. Enter your clearance exemption request and completed waiver form through myUHS, Medical Clearance.
- What if I am unable to receive the meningococcal vaccine due to a philosophical, religious, or medical reason or condition?
Print a copy of the Meningococcal Waiver Request Form. Medical exemptions must be completed and signed by your healthcare provider. Requests for philosophical exemptions must include a detailed written statement of personal beliefs. Requests for religious exemptions must include a detailed written statement of personal beliefs or a letter from clergy. Enter your clearance exemption and upload your completed waiver form through myUHS, Medical Clearances.
- I can't find my immunization records. Do I need to have the immunizations again?
Your health care provider can determine if you need the immunizations or if blood tests should be performed to determine immunity. You can have the vaccines and/or blood tests done at University Health Services, your campus health center or a local provider’s office at your own expense if they are not covered by your health insurance.
Commonwealth Campus students can contact the campus nurse or health center at their campus (if available) for additional information.