|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
As students prepare to head back to school, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated for protection against life-threatening diseases.
In 2017, state regulations changed the provisional period in which students could attend school without their vaccinations from eight months to five days. Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (Tdap); three doses of hepatitis B; two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); four doses of polio; and two doses of, or evidence of immunity, from chickenpox.
Students entering the seventh grade also need the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. A second dose of the MCV is now required for all 12th-grade students to protect against meningitis. If a child does not have at least one dose of these vaccinations, he or she can be excluded from school.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans, including those bought through the federal Marketplace, are required to cover school vaccinations as a free preventive service without charging a copayment or coinsurance, regardless of whether or not you have met your yearly deductible. It is important to make sure that the doctor or provider who administers the immunization is within your health insurance plan’s network, or you may be responsible for the cost.
In addition, the Department of Health offers immunization clinics year-round across the state. If a child does not have insurance coverage or if insurance does not cover back-to-school immunizations, children who meet the requirements can get their vaccines at one of the state health centers or local health departments.
Immunizations are provided at little or no cost for children through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or American Indian or Alaska Native. The cost is $5 per child (payable by check or money order) for families above income guidelines; however, no child will be turned away because of an inability to pay.
Parents whose children qualify for the low- or no-cost immunizations must call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to schedule an appointment. Parents should have their child’s vaccination records available when they call to make an appointment. A parent or legal guardian must accompany the child receiving vaccinations.
More information is available at www.health.pa.gov