Pediatrics | Published August 1, 2019 | Written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrician, Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine

Are your child's vaccinations up to date?

Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Backpack? Check. Lunchbox? Yes. Notebooks? Got them. As summer winds down and parents prepare to send their kids back to school, it’s a good time to brush up on school vaccination requirements and the importance of getting kids immunized.        

Immunization is one of the most important ways to protect yourself and others from infection and disease. According to research, vaccines are extremely safe and effective, and at Mount Nittany Health, we recommend having your children vaccinated following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines.

People who are not immunized are putting themselves and the entire community at risk. Immunizations help protect against vaccine-preventable diseases like hepatitis B, rotavirus, influenza and measles. According to the CDC, vaccines are tested to ensure that they are both safe and effective.

Immunization timeline for school attendance

Based upon DOH guidelines updated for the 2017-2018 school year, a temporary waiver for schoolchildren to be fully immunized is good for five school days, compared to the eight months allowed through the 2016-2017 school year. Students must obtain the next or final dose of required immunizations within that five-day window or risk being prohibited from attending school.

However, the student may attend school provisionally beyond the five days if he or she submits a medical certificate from a health care provider outlining the dates for additional vaccination. A health care provider includes a physician, certified nurse practitioner or a physician assistant.

If the student has not received all of the doses for a multiple-dose vaccine series on the child’s first day of attendance for that school year, the school administrator or a designee may not provisionally admit him or her unless the five-day rule can be met or a medical certificate is provided.

DOH representatives ask that parents do the best they can to get their kids properly vaccinated within those first five days of school. If that’s not possible, parents should ask their pediatrician to provide a medical certificate so the school nurse knows there’s a plan in place.

Necessary vaccinations

Children in all grades need the following immunizations to attend school:

  • Four doses of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis* (One dose on or after the 4th  birthday)
  • Four doses of polio (Fourth dose on or after 4th birthday and at least six months after previous dose given)**
  • Two doses of measles, mumps, rubella***
  • Three doses of hepatitis B
  • Two doses of varicella (chickenpox) or evidence of immunity
    *Usually given as DTP or DTaP or if medically advisable, DT or Td

**A fourth dose is not necessary if the third dose was administered at age 4 years or older and at least six months after the previous dose
***Usually given as MMR

For attendance on the first day of seventh grade, children will need:

  • One dose of tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap)
  • One dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV)

For attendance in 12th grade, children will need:

  • One dose of MCV on the first day of 12th grade. If one dose was given at 16 years of age or older, that counts as the 12th-grade dose.

Children transferring from outside the state, as well as children in foster care, have 30 days to provide immunization records or provide a medical certificate.

It is also important to note that both the DOH and the Pennsylvania Medical Freedom Alliance have stated there are exemptions to getting your child immunized, which include philosophical, religious and medical exemptions, such as kids undergoing chemotherapy.

Parents can always read more on these regulations by visiting the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov. Mount Nittany Health Pediatrics can also answer vaccination questions. To learn more visit kids.mountnittany.org.

Dr. Craig Collison is a pediatrician who sees patients at Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine, located in the Mount Nittany Health – Penns Valley location at 3631 Penns Valley Road in Spring Mills.

This article originally appeared in State College Magazine.