The administration of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is urging parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated for protection against life-threatening diseases this National Immunization Awareness Month.
“Now is the perfect time to get your children up-to-date on their vaccinations before the start of the new school year,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “When children aren’t vaccinated, they are at greater risk of developing serious illnesses such as hepatitis B, influenza, measles, meningitis, and mumps. Unvaccinated children can also spread these vaccine-preventable diseases to others in their classrooms and community, especially young children who are too young to be fully vaccinated and those with weakened immune systems.”
In 2017, state regulations changed the provisional period in which students could attend school without their vaccinations from eight months to five days. Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (Tdap); three doses of hepatitis B; two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); four doses of polio; and two doses of, or evidence of immunity, from chickenpox.
Students entering the seventh grade also need the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. A second dose of the MCV is now required for all 12th-grade students to protect against meningitis. If a child does not have at least one dose of these vaccinations, he or she can be excluded from school.
Sometimes children experience mild reactions from vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, a rash, or a fever, all of which are normal and temporary. Staying up-to-date with immunizations provides the best protection against disease.
These regulations allow for the following exemptions:
- Medical reason;
- Religious belief; or
- Philosophical/strong moral or ethical conviction.
Even if your child is exempt from immunizations, he or she may be excluded from school during a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans, including those bought through the federal Marketplace, are required to cover school vaccinations as a free preventive service without charging a copayment or coinsurance, regardless of whether or not you have met your yearly deductible.
“When a new school year starts, there are many costs parents have to consider with clothing, school supplies, and other expenses,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Thankfully, immunizations aren’t one of them, as most insurance plans cover school vaccinations with no cost to the consumer.”
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