Pennsylvania school children who show up for classes without all their immunizations would have far less time to get up to date under a new proposal put forth by the state Department of Health.
There will be plenty of debate on the proposal in coming months, but Pennsylvania’s health secretary said families should have five days–instead of eight months–to get school children vaccinated.
Nancy Kaminski, legislative chair for Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners, said the change won’t add to the workload of school nurses. Actually, she said, it could help them do their jobs prompting families to submit proof of vaccination.
“As it stands now, sometimes we are following up for eight months to try to get them in — sending reminders. Now, that cuts that time, and puts a little more teeth behind the regulations,” Kaminski said. “If it’s not in, in that timely fashion, they can be excluded from school.”
After an alarming measles outbreak in California this year, many public health officials are redoubling efforts to slow the spread of preventable diseases.
In Pennsylvania, the goal is to have 95 percent of kindergartners fully immunized at the start of the school year. Right now the coverage rate is about 91 percent.
To help, this summer the health department launched its “Don’t Wait. Vaccinate” campaign and hosted a series of low-cost, back-to-school immunization clinics.
State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera says his department will listen to and work with school nurses to make sure they have what they need.
“As we are presenting it now, the plan doesn’t have additional funding or positions associated with it, but the regulatory process is going to make sure that the community has an opportunity to provide feedback,” Rivera said.