On this day in 1990, 680 students and 60-80 campus employees were suspended and not allowed to attend classes or go to work on the University of Georgia campus because they had not yet provided proof of a current measles vaccination.
The University was acting under orders of the State Department of Health, which had declared a state of medical emergency at UGA two weeks after measles cases started to be reported on campus. In 1989, the entire state of Georgia had reported just 19 cases, but by May 22nd, 1990, the University had reported 38 cases in the previous month. The outbreak was traced to a Clarke Central high school student and St. Joseph's School student who had attended the April 21st G-Day game events at the Tate Student Center.
The first two campus cases were reported on April 24th, both residents of Lipscomb Hall. New cases showed up regularly, and on May 7th, the State Department of Health declared a state of medical emergency on the campus, requiring all employees and students born after 1956 and lacking proper documentation of having received a booster after 1980 to receive vaccinations.
Originally, the University had a voluntary immunization plan, but only 6,000 students were inoculated. At that point, the administration made vaccination mandatory: those who did not meet the May 18th deadline for vaccination were banned from campus. Faculty and staff would be suspended without pay; students would not be able "to attend class, receive class credit, pre-register for future classes, or complete graduation requirements."
Employees who could not receive the vaccination, for health or religious reasons, were suspended from campus with pay; students in similar situations were given "Incompletes" for their coursework and allowed three quarters to finish their assignments to gain their grades. Neither group could return to campus until two weeks after the last case of measles had been reported.
The University Health Clinic set up vaccination sites at the Tate Student Center and Memorial Hall, offering measles boosters to students from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the Tate Center, long lines of students snaked through the building and down the stairs to where inoculations were being given.
On the last day of classes, June 8th, the state of emergency was declared over, as the last reported case was May 25th. By the end of the outbreak, approximately 193 students had been banned from campus for the last three weeks of the quarter. The University provided 21,000 vaccinations to employees and students. Starting Summer quarter, however, proof of inoculation or a $25 fee to cover a measles shot that could be given at registration was required of all University of Georgia enrollees.
During the outbreak, the Red Cross had to cancel their scheduled blood drives at the University, putting Athens blood supply at risk. According to the Red Cross, their campus blood drives provided "about 40% of the Athens area's needs." The Red Cross would not return to campus until June 21st.
- Athens Observer, Mar. 1990 - Jun. 1990 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- Athens Banner-Herald, May 1, 1990 - May 31, 1990 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- The Red and Black Archive on the University of Georgia Libraries website.
- Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver by Arthur Allen in the general collection.
- The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin in the general collection.
- Men and Microbes: Diseases and Plagues in History and Modern Times by Arno Karlen in the general collection.
- Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul A. Offit in the general collection.
- The Good Old Days--They Were Terrible! by Otto Bettmann in the general collection.