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The lowdown on Pennsylvania’s new school vaccine requirements


When the kids go back to school, making sure their immunizations are up-to-date is a top priority.

That’s especially true this year, as newly enacted legislation has done away with a once very generous grace period.

As before, all students must have at least the first dose of a vaccine before the first day of school to be admitted to class; however, they now have just five days to complete the required schedule of vaccinations (for example, four doses of the polio vaccine), where in prior years, they had eight months.

Additionally, a fifth dose of the pertussis vaccine, as well as a vaccination against meningococcal disease, are now required for entry into seventh grade, and a second dose of the meningococcal vaccine is needed for 12th grade.

Families may still seek exemption from the state immunization requirements for medical reasons, religious beliefs, or “philosophical/strong moral or ethical” convictions.

New Pennsylvania vaccine schedule, effective 2017-18 school year

Students starting kindergarten, or in any grade thereafter, need the following vaccines:

• 4 doses of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (usually given as DTP or DTaP or DT or Td), including 1 dose on or after the 4th birthday
• 4 doses of polio, with the 4th dose given on or after the 4th birthday and at least 6 months after the previous dose; however, a 4th dose is not necessary if the 3rd dose was given at or after age 4 and at least 6 months after the previous dose.
• 3 doses of hepatitis B
• 2 doses of measles, mumps, rubella (usually given as MMR)
• 2 doses of varicella (chickenpox), or evidence of immunity

Additionally, students entering 7th grade need the following vaccines:

• 1 dose of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis
• 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine

Finally, students entering 12th grade need the following vaccine:

• 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine


In-school health screenings

While we provide our schools with records of our kids’ immunizations, the schools also provide medical screenings of our children.

Vision and growth (height and weight) screenings take place every year. Additionally, proof of physical examinations are required upon entry into kindergarten or first grade (the first year of entry), and then in grades 6 and 11. If a parent or guardian cannot produce documentation of an exam by a healthcare professional, the school district will conduct a free medical examination, with the parent present if he or she wishes.

Hearing screenings are given in grades K-3, 7 and 11; screenings for scoliosis are conducted in in grades 6 and 7, and tuberculosis tests are administered in grade 9. Like the physical examinations, proof of dental treatment is required upon entry into kindergarten or first grade, and then in grades 3 and 7, and will be provided by the child’s school district free of charge if a parent or guardian cannot show that the child is under treatment.

Leslie Penkunas is the editor of Central Penn Parent.

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