HARRISBURG, Pa. — With back-to-school just around the corner, state officials are reminding families to ensure their kids are immunized.
Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chicken pox, meningitis, measles and whooping cough, are still common in the commonwealth.
State officials say that vaccination is a crucial step to keep kids safe during the school year and that these requirements also extend to both cyber and charter school students.
"We want to make sure the kids are protected with safe and effective vaccines and that includes the COVID vaccines," said Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson.
According to health officials, children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance:
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- hepatitis B
Children entering the seventh grade also need additional immunizations of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap).
If a child does not have at least one dose of the above immunizations, they risk exclusion from school, according to officials.
Additionally, while the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory to attend school, the Wolf Administration encourages Pennsylvanians ages 5 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help ensure their safety during the 2022-2023 school year.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans, including the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid, are required to cover school vaccinations as a free preventive service.
"As students head back to school this year, parents no doubt have many decisions and concerns to consider," said Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys. "Thankfully, the cost of school vaccinations isn't one of them, as most insurance plans cover required immunizations with no cost to the consumer."
According to Wolf administration officials, no family makes too much money to purchase coverage through CHIP, and families or children may qualify for coverage through Medical Assistance. CHIP and Medicaid can ensure parents can access affordable health coverage and care for their children.
"Getting vaccinated and staying up to date is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to prevent disease," said Dr. Johnson.
"Vaccines help protect everyone, including people with compromised immune systems who cannot get vaccinated. It is essential that everyone, especially children, are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations before heading back to school," said Dr. Johnson.
More information on CHIP can be found at www.chipcoverspakids.com. Families can apply for coverage through the CHIP program and determine their eligibility for Medical Assistance and other public assistance programs online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Those who prefer to submit paper documents can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local County Assistance Office (CAO). Families do not need to know their own eligibility in order to apply.
Anyone looking to visit a local immunization clinic to receive vaccinations should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to schedule an appointment.
Pennsylvanians are encouraged to have their vaccination records available when they call to make an appointment. A parent or legal guardian must accompany a child receiving immunizations.