While we prepare our children to go back to school, parents should check and make sure their children are current on all vaccinations before the start of the school year or they may not be able to start on the first day. Pennsylvania recently enacted new state health rules stating that children without the required vaccinations or exemptions will not granted a grace period to see their doctors, as has been practice in the past.
"Schools are a great environment for spreading bacteria and viruses because students are in crowded classrooms, sharing things and in close proximity to one another," said Zachary Klase PhD, assistant professor of biological sciences at University of the Sciences. "A major factor contributing to many viral outbreaks is being an an environment where you are close to others such attending the same class, playing on the same sports team or living in a residence hall."
All 50 states require children attending public schools to be vaccinated unless they have an exemption. Requirements for students in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are available online. Colleges and universities also have specific requirements for students, specifically those living in a residence hall.
The common preventable illnesses protected by childhood vaccinations include tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis b, and meningitis.
Vaccines are more than just a government regulation or requirement. They are an extremely effective public health tool that protects the spread of disease.
- Many of the diseases protected by common childhood vaccines may sound like they are remnants from centuries ago, but strains of several of these viruses are still active in many parts of the world and are seeing a resurgence due to lower vaccine use. As the world is more interconnected than ever by frequent travel and trade, the spread of these diseases is a real concern to public health professionals.
- Vaccines are a safe way to protect against this spread. They typically use a small piece of the bacteria or virus, or a version that has been inactivated. This allows your body to develop an immunity to disease – in the same way that your body would if you got sick, but more safely.
- It is easy to think that these diseases are gone and the vaccines are unnecessary, but that is untrue. Earlier this year a measles outbreak in Minnesota was associated with a drop in vaccination rate.
Vaccines are available at private doctors' offices, pharmacies, and community health clinics. All healthcare plans purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplace and other private insurance plans are required to cover the cost of all the required vaccines without a copayment at an in-network provider.
Federally qualified health centers provide care, including vaccinations to those who are without health insurance or who are unable to afford vaccinations.
Dr. Klase is an assistant professor of biological sciences, specializing in the body's immune responses to viral infections. His research combines molecular biology and immunology practices to examine the interface between host and pathogen.