Changes in school vaccination requirements went into effect for students in the state’s school districts as of Aug. 1. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has required these changes to make the school environment a healthier and safer one for students in the Commonwealth.
While most of the requirements stay the same, there are a few key changes that parents will need to note and be ready for the upcoming school year.
“The change that will have the most impact is the reduction of the provisional time when a student can attend without being in compliance. This will change from its present eight-month allowance to just five days,” explained Dr. Jessica Aquilina, superintendent of Forest City Regional School District.
Previously, the regulations allowed a child to be provisionally admitted to school even though the child did not have all the required immunizations for entry or continued attendance for eight months before facing exclusion. The child now only has five days to be in compliance as required by law.
In the case of a multi-dose vaccine, regulations require that the child have at least one dose of the following vaccines upon school entry or risk exclusion:
DTaP (Tetanus, Diptheria, Acellular Pertussis) (4) kindergarten
Polio (4) kindergarten
HepB (Hepatitis B) (3) kindergarten
MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) (2) kindergarten
VAR (Varicella) (2) kindergarten
MCV (Meningococcal Conjugate) (2) 7th -12th grades
If additional doses are required and are medically appropriate within the first five days of school:
• The child shall have either the final dose during that five-day period; or
• The child shall have the next scheduled dose and shall also provide a medical certificate setting out the schedule for the remaining doses.
• If the child has at least one dose, but needs additional doses, and those doses are not medically appropriate during the first five days of school, the child may provide a medical certificate on or before the fifth school day showing the doses are scheduled to be administered.
• The medical certificate shall be signed by a physician, certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) or physician assistant (PA). If the child will be receiving the immunizations from the department or a public health department, a public health official may sign the medical certificate.
A child who meets these requirements may continue to attend school even if the child does not have all the required vaccinations, as long as the child complies with the vaccination schedule in the medical plan/certificate.
School administrators or their designees are required to review that medical plan/certificate every 30 days to ensure that the child is in compliance.
“We will review our policy to ensure alignment with the new regulations and likely need to develop an administrative regulation to guide practices related to the regulations,” concluded Aquilina. The new requirement information was recently shared at a board meeting and at pre-k and kindergarten registration at Forest City. In addition, a robo-call will be sent out in with a reminder to students in that district.
In addition to reducing the provisional clause, the new requirements also include:
• Acknowledging the pertussis component of DTaP
• Clarifying four doses of polio
• Adding a dose of MCV for 12th grade entry
• Identifying a reporting period of Dec. 1-31
All grades will have four doses of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (one dose on or after the 4th birthday); four doses of polio (4th dose on or after 4th birthday and at least 6 months after previous dose given); two doses of measles, mumps, rubella; three doses of hepatitis B; two doses of varicella (chickenpox) or evidence of immunity
In 7th grade:One dose of tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap) on the first day of 7th grade; and one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) on the first day of 7th grade. If a child gains entrance to school in any succeeding year, the same immunizations are required on the first day.
In 12th grade: One dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) on the first day of 12th grade. If one dose was given at 16 years of age or older, that shall count as the 12th grade dose.
“Exemptions have not changed and are still permitted due to religious or philosophical beliefs or a medical condition which precludes a child from receiving an immunization,” pointed out superintendent Aquilina.
Also, if the child is homeless, unable to locate his records due to a disaster, transfers into the school or if there is a national vaccine shortage, an exemption shall be granted.
If anyone has any questions regarding the new immunizations they can contact their pediatrician or school for more information or go on-line to www.dontwaitvaccinate.pa.gov.