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August 23, 1993

Medical Students' Exposure and Immunity to Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Author Affiliations

From the Section of General Internal Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Minneapolis (Minn) (Dr Nichol) and University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis (Drs Nichol and Olson).

Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(16):1913-1916. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410160081007

Background:  This study was conducted to assess medical students' immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases, their exposure to these diseases, and their attitudes toward immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases.

Methods:  A cross-sectional, mailed survey was conducted of all 249 senior medical students in the 1991 graduating class at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Two mailings were sent during the autumn of their senior year.

Results:  The response rate was 77.5%. More than 90% of the students reported that they were immune to measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B but only 23% were immune to influenza. Fewer than half of the students had ever been queried about their immune status prior to clinical clerkships. One third of the students had had a needlestick exposure during their clinical training (including 8% to a known hepatitis B carrier) and only 52% of these were reported by the student. Ten percent to 20% of the students felt that immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella was only somewhat or not very important. Less than one third of the students felt that immunity to influenza was important for themselves as health care providers.

Conclusion:  This study documented inadequate levels of immunity among medical students to certain vaccine-preventable diseases, that exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases was fairly common during clinical training, and that medical students often had inadequate attitudes about immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases. These findings have implications for medical school immunization policies and curriculum content.(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:1913-1916)