Pa. has new school immunization rules — and time is running out

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
Medical assistant Brittany Copeland, of WellSpan Pediatric Medicine on East Market Street, helps Laurel Harrison, 5, of Spring Garden Township, listen through a stethoscope for a teddy bear checkup during First Friday festivities in York City, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. WellSpan is the presenting sponsor of Downtown Inc's First Fridays and was promoting and providing information regarding Pennsylvania's immunization requirements. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Local doctors and health advocates say changes to state requirements surrounding school immunizations have parents scrambling to get their kids vaccinated before the new school year.

Dr. Mark Goedecker, a family doctor with WellSpan, said he encourages parents to get ahead of the deadline while they still can.

Under new state rules, the provisional waiver allowing kids to stay in school unvaccinated will be five school days, a dramatic reduction from the prior provisional period of eight months.

“That’s a huge change,” he said, “and a huge number of kids that need shots.”

The new immunization rules for the 2017-18 school year also require students entering 12th grade to get an additional shot of the meningococcal vaccine (MCV). If students do not get their required shots within five school days, they risk being removed from classes.

Aside from the state requirement, Goedecker said getting vaccinated is among the most important medical moves anyone — parent or child — can make.

“It’s probably one of the most important things we can do with medicine,” he said.

“(Look at) the progress we’ve made over the last hundred years,” Goedecker said, referring to the eradication of polio. 

Moses Caraballo, an immunization programs specialist at the York City Health Bureau, said parents should call their primary care physician right away to schedule an appointment for vaccinations.

He said many parents “wait until the last minute” to get their kids vaccinated, and time is running out.

“We’ve been telling parents any way we can to schedule an appointment,” Caraballo said.

The York City Bureau of Health will be facilitating a back-to-school clinic from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Aug. 21 to Aug. 25, at its offices at 435 W. Philadelphia St. Appointments, which are required, are available only to city residents with Medicaid or with no health insurance.