As the start of the school year approaches, time is running out to get youngsters vaccinated.
This year, a change in Pennsylvania’s health regulations means school children will need to get their required vaccines within the first five days of school. Previously, students had an eight month provisional period.
Kids in kindergarten through 12th grade need to be immunized for tetanus, diphtheria, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), hepatitis B and chickenpox. Students entering seventh grade also need immunizations for meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap).
The Pennsylvania Department of Health warns that students who do not have at least one dose of the required vaccinations risk exclusion from school.
“It’s very important for all young people to receive immunizations on time,” said Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine. “This includes being up-to-date on age-appropriate immunizations within five days of the start of the new school year.”
However, the state does allow for exemptions on the basis of medical reason, religious belief, or philosophical/strong moral or ethical conviction.
State health officials said that students who are exempt for immunizations may be excluded from school during any outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease.
Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said most insurance plans are required by the Affordable Care Act to cover the cost of school vaccinations.
Immunization clinics run by state health officials are operated throughout the year and can help children who do not have insurance coverage or if insurance does not cover back-to-school immunizations. If children meet the requirements, they can get immunizations for little or no cost. Parents looking to learn more about the problem, can call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and should have their vaccination records available.