New Health Rule Says Your Kids Can’t Go To School If They Not Vaccinated

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Under recent new Pennsylvania state health rules, parents will have to see that their children have the required vaccinations by the first day of school.

If you don’t do that, your child may not be able to start school. And more importantly, your child may not be protected against serious diseases,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley.

Unlike the previous eight-month grace period, the current rules allow children to be granted a waiver of up to 5 days to get a required dose of a vaccine. This deadline can be extended if a doctor provides a medical plan explaining when the vaccines will be provided.

New regulations also call for additional vaccines and students entering the 12th grade must receive a second dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, or MCV, to protect against meningitis. Students however, were already required to get a dose of the vaccine before entering the seventh grade.

Children are now also required to receive four doses of the polio vaccine. In the past, the state requirement called for “three or more” doses.

Vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox is also required in the state.

The new rules don’t say what the penalties for districts that don’t enforce the requirements will be, said a state Health Department spokesman. However, they are supposed to prohibit noncompliant children from attending school.

There are a few exceptions in Pennsylvania: Parents can seek to have their children exempted from vaccinations due to religious, medical or philosophical reasons.

The state and school districts have been trying to avoid turning students away by getting the word out about the new mandate.

“Our nurses have been actively reaching out to families all summer to ensure that immunizations are up to date, but we still have a number of students who are at risk of exclusion,” said Douglas Young, spokesman for the Lower Merion School District. “Unless the Department of Health grants an extension, we imagine there will be many students across the state who may not be permitted to come to school.”

Other districts including Philadelphia have been using tools like robocalls to remind parents and guardians to get their kids the required shots.

Our school nurses also worked before the end of school in June to notify those families with needs to contact their pediatrician and work with them this summer on update vaccines and to make sure that we have update information on file,” said Patricia McGlone, spokeswoman for the Downingtown Area School District.

Philadelphia families may visit or call 215-685-2933 to learn of city clinics where their children can be immunized. Other state residents can visit or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for any immunization information, even if they don’t have health insurance.

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