The Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education announced proposed changes to immunization requirements for schoolchildren during a state news conference Thursday morning, Nov. 5.
“Pennsylvania physicians through the Pennsylvania Medical Society have voiced growing concerns in recent years over immunization rates, vaccine exemptions, and occasional outbreaks of diseases such as measles,” said Scott Shapiro, MD, FACC, FCPP, president of PAMED, in a statement. “Our long-standing policy has pushed to establish a parental duty to immunize their children in a complete and timely manner.”
“The Pennsylvania Medical Society believes Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera are correct in proposing changes to improve state-required immunization policy. This will help provide greater protection for Pennsylvanians.”
Specifically, the departments proposed the following changes to current regulations:
- Definitions for new terms “full immunization” and “medical certificate”
- Clarifications to existing vaccine requirements
- Additional meningococcal dose before entry into the 12th grade
- Change to method of providing evidence of immunity for measles and for mumps from accepting a statement of history by parent or guardian to requiring a statement of history of disease by physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant
- Replacing the eight month provisional period with the following:
- Requiring exclusion from school attendance of a child who lacks a single dose of a single dose vaccine and/or the first dose of a multiple dose vaccine
- Allowing a child that needs the next or final dose of a multiple dose vaccine five school days to obtain the next or final dose in the series before being excluded from school attendance; or
- Allowing a child needing more than one dose of a multiple-dose vaccine series beyond the five days to attend school provisionally upon the submission of a medical certificate outlining the dates for additional vaccination
- Requiring school administrators to review the medical certificate and the child’s compliance at least every 30 days
- Allowing school administrators to exclude a child who does not comply with the dates in the submitted medical certificate.
- Exempting from exclusion a child who is homeless
- Exempting from exclusion for 30-days a child who is transferring from a school or country outside the commonwealth and cannot provide records
- Providing limited waiver of vaccine requirements in the event of a disaster impacting the ability of children transferring into a school to provide records, or a nationally recognized vaccine shortage
- Changing reporting times for schools to report kindergarten and 7th grade immunizations to allow schools more time to gather information and report
- Requiring schools to report electronically to obtain more accurate reporting
The departments also said that they are not proposing any changes to the religious and medical exemptions in the regulations. Read more on the Department of Health’s website, including FAQs and its news release.
PAMED’s current policy supports these changes:
60.998 More Stringent Vaccinations
The Society supports legislation to 1) establish a parental duty to immunize their children in a complete and timely manner and 2) mandate Pennsylvania public health clinics provide all recommended immunizations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (specifically Hepatitis B Vaccine) that supports these changes.
“As any physician will tell you, vaccines play an important role in the health of all citizens, whether it’s protecting yourself or others around you,” said Dr. Shapiro. “We must remember that there are some patients who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving certain immunizations, so we need to increase herd immunity to lower the risk these individuals face.”