New USAP Deployment Requirement: MMR Vaccine Now Mandatory
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo

Division of Polar Programs
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Arlington, VA

New United States Antarctic Program Deployment Requirement:
Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine Now Mandatory

Posted May 27, 2016

Media questions about this new policy should be directed to Peter West
(703) 292-7530 |

The National Science Foundation is introducing a new requirement that all personnel deploying to Antarctic stations and aboard research vessels must be vaccinated for Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR).

This protocol will be instituted immediately for all personnel deploying to the Antarctic.

All personnel not yet Physical Qualified (PQ'd) for deployment will be required to provide proof of immunization or receive the MMR vaccine before they will be authorized to deploy. Personnel who are currently deployed are protected while they are in place but will be required to provide proof of immune status or receive the vaccine before they will be authorized to deploy again. PQ forms will be revised to make the new requirement apparent.

disclaimer NOTE
There are a group of individuals who have already PQ’d but have not yet deployed. These individuals must provide proof of immunization or receive the vaccine before they will be authorized to deploy. It is imperative that we not introduce the disease to the stations and vessels.

These individuals will be contacted directly by University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) staff.

Why is This Change Being Made?

Recent U.S. and New Zealand outbreaks have caused the Antarctic Program to expand our infectious disease protocols to consider whether we should take some preventive action. Infectious disease experts and the Polar Programs’ Medical Review Panel have recommended that all participants be vaccinated for MMR.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the ease of contamination for people sharing close living quarters with people from many different places, recommends that travelers be up-to-date with routine vaccinations, including influenza vaccine, for travel to Antarctica.

Many colleges and universities already have the same policy and also require annual flu shots, chicken pox and polio vaccines, among others. Other travel vaccines are recommended according to the specific countries one travels through on the way to Antarctica.

The CDC’s Health Information for Travelers is identical for both U.S. Antarctic Program gateway cities, New Zealand and Chile. Participants should make sure you they are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and an annual flu shot.

PQ Screening Guidelines Will be Revised as Follows:

  1. An annual flu shot will continue to be a requirement of Antarctic deployment.
  2. Under the previous policy, participants were permitted to elect either the DT (diphtheria-tetanus) or the DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine. Effective with new PQ applications, the full DTP will be required. The interval remains the same at baseline and every 10 years.
  3. There are no current plans to require varicella or polio vaccine.
  4. All participants will be required to provide proof of vaccination for Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR ) or, failing that, vaccination will be mandatory according to group:
    • Group 1
      Individuals born in the United States before 1958 and in New Zealand before 1968 are presumed immune due to widespread propagation of the disease prior to the introduction of the vaccine. No further action is required.
    • Group 2
      Individuals who served in the U.S. military since 1960 are presumed immune through vaccination and no further action is required.
    • Group 3
      All participants not in Groups 1 or 2 will either have to prove vaccination--either through records or through a blood test--or receive the vaccination. The cost of the blood test or the cost of the vaccination will be reimbursed as part of the PQ process.

National Science Foundation