The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

If you remember having to get a set of vaccines before you could attend school or travel, you aren’t alone. The new discussions over mandating COVID-19 shots before university students can attend class seem odd in light of the standing requirements nearly every institution of higher ed and most school districts have consistently maintained.

At Georgia Southern — and other colleges and universities under the University System of Georgia (USG), students are required to provide documented proof of immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella, chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and hepatitis B prior to registration.

The USG Board of Regents is a 19-member panel appointed by the governor and the chancellor is selected by the board. The USG sets the rules following this mandate that basically says that if authorities declare a health emergency, then other measures — like COVID-19 vaccines — can be ordered. Anyone who doesn’t follow along will be “excluded from any USG institution of facility” until they can prove immunity or immunization.

While USG hasn’t mandated COVID-19 vaccines for students, faculty or staff, Georgia remains under a Public Health State of Emergency by order of Gov. Brian Kemp, at least through April 30. (The order has been extended 13 times since it was first signed March 14, 2020.)

All of this begs the question: How dangerous are the other threats that require vaccines? Here’s what the CDC says:

  • Mumps: 11 cases this year; none in Georgia.
  • Diphtheria: While there have been small clusters of cases in Brazil, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the past year, none have been reported in Georgia. In 1921, 15,520 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to it.
  • Measles: In 2000, this disease was declared eradicated until it roared back in 2019 with several outbreaks totaling 1,282 across 31 states. The outbreaks were traced to travelers and unvaccinated groups. 2020 held only 13 cases. No cases have been reported in 2021, according to the CDC.
  • Rubella: This disease was declared eliminated in 2015 for the Americas, but it still exists in other parts of the world.
  • Chickenpox (varicella): This disease still occurs and remains extremely contagious. Before a vaccine became available in 1995, the U.S. averaged 4 million cases a year and as many as 150 deaths. While we still smile at the name, it’s still a threat but serious illness is rare.
  • Whooping cough (pertussis): While it still threatens babies, it’s a danger to adults, as well. Around 16,000 cases are reported annually.
  • Tetanus: While cases have declined to a handful of cases each year, it’s still a danger. Sporadic cases still occur in adults who did not get the recommended tetanus vaccinations, according to the CDC.
  • Hepatitis B: This viral disease is still alive and well among those who haven’t gotten vaccinated. More than half of the 3,300 new cases reported annually are among persons ages 30-49. At last count, the CDC reports 1 case for every 100,000 people overall, but that incidence nearly triples for people ages 40-49.

All of these maladies have two things in common:

  • They were once recognized as deadly ailments and still could be.
  • They are now contained well or nearly eradicated by internationally recognized vaccines.

So how do these potentially debilitating and fatal diseases currently rank against the coronavirus pandemic?

As of this writing, in the U.S. alone there are 31,666,546 COVID-19 cases with 566,494 deaths reported by the CDC. 219 million vaccines have been administered across the country.

  • Want to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Go here to find the closest site to you or call 888-457-0186 to schedule your shot.
  • Want more information? Call 888-357-0169 to talk to someone a the state Department of Public Health who can answer your specific questions about the immunization and vaccines.
  • Want to start your own search? Here’s a good place to start.

The Tide brings regular notes and observations on news and events by The Current staff.

Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Susan served as executive editor of the Savannah Morning News for nearly 15 years,...