Pa. families appear to embrace tougher school vaccination rules

Desmond Sewell, 12, receives a vaccination in Los Angeles.

It took many an email, copious notices snail-mailed home, and robo-calls up the wazoo, not to mention some thinly veiled threats of turning away unvaccinated kids from school. But education school and health officials around Pennsylvania state say that, for the most part, families appear to be rising to the challenge of earlier, stricter deadlines for getting students immunized.

“At this time, school districts and school nurses are doing a great job of coordinating with parents and asking for resources when needed,” said state health department spokeswoman April Hutcheson.

No new immunization numbers have been tallied yet, but officials say the rules seem to be having the desired effect.

Under new immunization rules, all Pennsylvania schoolchildren were supposed to show up on the first day of school having received all required vaccines, or face possibly being turned away. School officials were allowed to grant a five-day grace period for kids to get the needed shots, but that was far stricter than the old rule, which gave students eight months to get all mandated vaccines. Until now, Pennsylvania had one of the nation’s most lax vaccine standards, leading state physician general Rachel Levine to campaign for the new rules.

Health officials have warned that failure to vaccinate has led to outbreaks of dangerous disease, such as the numerous measles cases this year in a Somali immigrant community in Minnesota.

The new state rules also require some additional vaccinations for polio and meningitis, in addition to those already required for tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and children pox.

Students can get a reprieve if they come in with a plan from their doctor for when they will receive the needed immunizations, or if they have a medical condition or religious objection that precludes vaccinations.

In some districts like the Lancaster schools, there were more substantial numbers of unvaccinated children. Last week, a clinic held with the state’s help in Lancaster City immunized over 40 children,…