Last Updated: Jul 16, 2018
Here is a refresher with six key things to know about Pennsylvania’s current school immunization regulations which took effect on Aug. 1, 2017:
1. Religious or Medical Exemptions – A child can still obtain an exemption from immunization requirements for religious/philosophical or medical reasons.
2. New Definitions for “Full Immunization” and “Medical Certificate” – As of Aug. 1, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health added these new definitions to its regulations:
Full immunization—Defined as "the completion of the requisite number of dosages of the specific antigens at recommended time and age intervals as set forth in § 23.83 (relating to immunization requirements)."
Medical certificate—Defined as "the official form furnished by the Department setting out the immunization plan for a student who is not fully immunized, filled out and signed by a health care provider, or by a public health official when the immunization is provided by the Department of a local health department, and given to a school as proof that the student is scheduled to complete the required immunizations."
To provide confirmation that these definitions have been met, physicians and practices can download these forms from DOH:
3. Provisional Period – In years past, children in Pennsylvania could be provisionally admitted to school for up to an eight-month period if the child had a plan for the completion of required immunizations in the child's school health record or, in the case of a multiple dose vaccine, if the child had received one dose and there was a plan for completion of the remaining doses in the child's health record.
This provisional period has been reduced to five days, with requirements that differ for single dose and multiple dose vaccines. If a child does not have a requisite single dose vaccine, the child would be excluded from school. For multiple dose vaccines, one of the following requirements applies:
- A child would be excluded from school for lack of the first dose of a multiple dose vaccine.
- A child would be provisionally admitted to school for a five-day school period if a child receives the final dose of a multiple dose vaccine within five school days of the child's first day of school.
- If a child has the first dose of a multiple dose vaccine series, is scheduled to and does receive the next dose during the five-school-day provisional period, and provides a medical certificate scheduling the remaining doses, the child may attend school so long as the child adheres to the medical certificate schedule.
- If a child needs additional doses of a multiple dose vaccine series to meet the requirements, but the next dose is not medically appropriate during the five school days, the child's parent or guardian must provide a medical certificate scheduling those additional doses on or before the fifth school day.
4. Vaccine Requirements – The current regulations were updated on Aug. 1, 2017 with these requirements:
- Require the combination vaccine of DTaP instead of individual dosages.
- Require the combination vaccine of MMR instead of individual dosages.
- Addition of a dosage of meningococcal vaccine for entry into 12th grade or in an ungraded school in the school year the child turns 18.
5. Temporary Waiver of Immunization Requirements – The regulations allow for certain waivers to immunization requirements or the timeframes in which the immunizations must be completed:
- As required under federal law, homeless children would be admitted to school regardless of immunization requirements.
- Children that transfer to a school within the Commonwealth would have 30 days in which to obtain and provide proof of immunizations to the school or proof of the need for an exemption.
- The Secretary of Health may issue a temporary waiver of the immunization requirements by publishing a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin under two circumstances: if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Department of Health and Human Services recognizes a Nationwide shortage of supply for a particular vaccine; or, in the event of a disaster impacting the ability of children transferring into a school to provide immunization records.
6. School reporting – DOH requires schools to submit immunization data to DOH by Dec. 15 of each year for hard copy submissions or Dec. 31 each year for electronic submissions.
For more resources and school immunization forms, visit DOH’s School Immunization webpage.
Pennsylvania Medical Society members with questions can also contact our Knowledge Center at 855-PAMED4U (855-726-3348) or KnowledgeCenter@pamedsoc.org.