ST. PAUL (AP) -- Some Minnesota doctors worry that more college students will get chickenpox in the future if more children are not vaccinated when they are young.
"I predict that we will be experiencing a major outbreak of chickenpox on college campuses," said Edward Ehlinger, director of the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service.
He spoke at a public hearing in St. Paul on Friday before an administrative law judge to determine the fate of a Health Department proposal to require two more immunizations for Minnesota school kids.
For almost six hours, Judge Kathleen Sheehy listened to impassioned comments from doctors, nurses, lawyers and parents, arguing the benefits and dangers of the vaccines for chickenpox and pneumonia.
Ehlinger, however, noted that children won't be the only ones affected by the decision. If the policy doesn't change, he said, adults may pay a hefty price as well.
The chickenpox vaccine is now voluntary, and about 62 percent of Minnesota children are immunized, Ehlinger said. That means fewer kids are getting sick, and more kids are growing up without contacting chickenpox naturally. If they haven't been vaccinated, they may not get the virus until adulthood -- when it's far more dangerous.
Unless the vaccine is mandatory, Ehlinger said, the number of students who get to college without immunity will increase. Chickenpox is much more serious in adults, and can result in life-threatening complications.
Dr. Richard Andersen, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital in St. Paul, agreed. "The great paradox to me is that by taking a halfhearted approach ... we're creating exactly the scenario we're trying to avoid."
Both said they strongly supported the Health Department recommendations.
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