Every year, about 300,000 students get immunized in Pennsylvania.
Now, the state Department of Health is asking for the public’s comments on proposed changes to its immunization policy.
The Health Department wants to reduce the deadline for students to receive vaccinations from eight months into the school year to just the first five days. If vaccinations cannot be completed by this time, parents must submit a medical certificate — filled out by a doctor — on when the student will complete their required shots.
Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said the proposed changes are meant to broaden protection from diseases.
“By making these changes, we’ll protect students as a whole and also not just the students, but their younger siblings at home and really ensuring the health of … all Pennsylvanians,” Robinson said.
She added having an eight-month deadline puts students at greater risk.
“Allowing children to have up to eight months of not being immunized puts children … at risk of potentially contracting a vaccine-preventable disease,” Robinson said.
She said she did not think the changes would make the process harder for parents, but they would have to be “more strategic” in vaccinating their children.
Students who do not comply with the proposals would be able to be held from school by administrators.
Certain groups of children, including those from refugee, migrant, low-income or homeless families, will be given extra time to complete the vaccinations, Robinson said.
Exemptions from vaccinations for religious, philosophical or medical reasons will also remain in place, she said.
Feedback from the public will be accepted by the Health Department through May 9.
Those interested in providing comment can call the Health Department’s Division of Immunizations at 717-787-5681 or send them in writing to 625 Forster Street, Room 1026, Harrisburg, Pa., 17120.