Whew! If you're a Pennsylvania parent still scrambling to schedule catch-up vaccines for your kids before your school district's May deadline, you can relax – a little. The state Department of Health just added a two-week grace period.
The new rules gave parents eight months from the start of school to make sure kids and teens are up-to-date on vaccines. For most families, that meant a May deadline that would end sometime this week. After that, the rules say kids might not be able to attend school.
About 2,300 kids got caught up during free vaccine clinics held by the state in early April; many more took advantage of county clinics as well. But according to Dr. Eli N. Avila, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, many more aren't ready.
The new regulations require children in all grades to receive a second dose of mumps vaccine as well as a second dose of the chicken pox vaccine, according to the health department. They also require students in seventh grade to have one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and one dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap). The vaccines also need to be appropriately spaced apart to be considered valid.
School districts have the power to exclude students who aren't vaccinated – or to give the OK to kids whose families can prove they've at least got a vaccination appointment scheduled. Get one by calling your pediatrician or dialing 1-877-PA HEALTH (877-724-3258) to be connected to your local state health center. Bring your child's vaccine history along to the appointments. Exemptions are allowed for medical reasons verified by a healthcare professional, on religious grounds, or on the basis of a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief.
For more information on vaccine rules, click here to go to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's immunizations page.