Most parents understand the importance of providing an accurate and complete immunization record when their child starts kindergarten. But immunization requirements and recommendations continue through grade school, middle school and high school.
School administrators and school nurses should be aware of recent changes to the law in Pennsylvania regarding required school immunizations and be sure to inform parents of the need for compliance with the new vaccination requirements.
The change in law pertaining to school-required vaccinations went into effect on August 1, 2017. Schools were informed of the change in March 2017. Parents should have received notifications from their child’s school district.
Schools are also required to report immunization data to the Department of Health electronically by December 31 of each year.
Public school students must be up to date with their vaccinations on the first day back-to-school. If a child’s vaccinations are not complete, the child may be sent home.
Parents who obtain a provisional waiver for their child are now given only five extra days to have the child vaccinated. With the provisional waiver, the child is permitted to attend school until the required vaccination is obtained. Previously, a waiver provided an eight-month window to obtain the required vaccination.
Students must receive all the doses of a multiple-dose vaccines to be admitted to school. Exceptions are permitted for students who meet the five-day provisional waiver rule or who provide a doctor’s vaccination plan indicating specific dates for the required vaccines. As for single-dose vaccines, if a student has not been vaccinated by the first day of school, he or she may be sent home.
Students who are entering 12th grade are now required to have an additional dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) for meningitis. Students are still required to receive a first dose of MCV before entering seventh grade. If a child was given a second dose at 16 years of age or older, that is deemed to be the required 12th-grade dose, according to the state Department of Health. The second dose of the meningitis vaccine has been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices since 2015.
In the absence of a medical or religious exemption, students in Pennsylvania are required to have the following immunizations on the first day back to school: four doses of the tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, four doses of the polio vaccine, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, and two doses of the chicken pox vaccine (or documented evidence of immunity).
School nurses and administrators are tasked with making sure all students comply with vaccine requirements and have received the required vaccine at the appropriate time. School administrators are not permitted to admit students unless the students have received all the doses of a multiple-dose vaccine series (unless the five-day waiver is met or a doctor’s schedule is provided).