The Pennsylvania Department of Health's motto, "Don't wait. Vaccinate," takes on increased significance this year. Pennsylvania adopted new regulations stating that students must have all the required vaccines for admission to school within five days of the start of school.
Students who are not compliant within the five days will not be allowed to attend school. The 'grace period' to get these vaccinations was previously eight months.
Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website to learn more about vaccination requirements.
These updated regulations require a student to:
- Have all the required vaccines, or
- Have completed the first vaccine in a series and have a written scheduled catch-up plan signed by a healthcare provider outlining the student's plan, or
- Have documented exemptions.
Keeping students up to date
Contact your pediatrician or family physician to make sure your child is up to date with the required immunizations. Local pediatricians and family doctors are aware of the new recommendations.
"Parents should never panic. There are a few months to get caught up," says Susan J. Kressly, MD, FAAP, school physician for Central Bucks School District. "Don't wait until August, but there is no need to panic."
If your school nurse does not have a complete copy of your child's immunizations, or you are not sure that it is up to date, provide them with an updated copy.
If you don't have a pediatrician or family physician, ask the school whether they have a complete copy of the record and if there are any missing vaccines.
If your child is missing one or more of the required vaccines, contact your child's physician and schedule an appointment as soon as possible to get caught up, advises Dr. Kressly. Students who are missing vaccines must be on the path to catching up prior to the new school year. Discuss with your child's physician what that catch-up schedule will look like.
The Bucks County Department of Health has planned additional clinics in response to the changes. The clinics are for children who are uninsured, underinsured, or who qualify for medical assistance.
It is true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, cases and outbreaks still happen. For instance, the United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014. Whooping cough is another disease that can be prevented by vaccination. From January 1 to June 13, 2016, almost 6,000 cases of whooping cough were reported to the CDC.
"Immunizations are important to protect our children and our community from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines work," says Dr. Kressly. "They have kept children healthy and saved millions of lives for more than 50 years. The new Pennsylvania regulations are intended to ensure that children attending school in the commonwealth are adequately protected and together create a safe environment for all children, including those who are unable to receive vaccines for medical reasons or in whom vaccines don't work."
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